Re­gan: I feared Gor­don would quit fol­low­ing Georgia de­feat

The Herald - Sport - - FOOTBALL - GARY KE­OWN

IN the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of those dam­ag­ing Septem­ber de­feats by Georgia and Ger­many, the pres­i­dent of the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, Alan McRae, gave the strong­est of in­di­ca­tions that Gor­don Stra­chan would re­main in place as head coach of the na­tional team no mat­ter what hap­pened in terms of qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship fi­nals.

“I’m go­ing to stick my neck out and say I don’t think Gor­don will want to leave the job,” he stated at the time. “I can­not see any of our board want­ing any­thing other than Gor­don con­tin­u­ing.”

While a lit­tle sur­pris­ing, per­haps, it pointed to a board and man­ager in per­fect har­mony, con­tent with progress be­ing made and com­mit­ted to a long and fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship.

McRae’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, Stew­art Re­gan, has ad­mit­ted for the first time since ty­ing Stra­chan up on a two­year ex­ten­sion, how­ever, that he did har­bour real con­cerns around that time that the former Celtic man­ager was in dan­ger of walk­ing away.

Vic­tory against Georgia would have placed Scot­land in an en­vi­able po­si­tion in Group D. That just made the en­su­ing one­goal de­feat and the quite piti­ful na­ture of the team’s dis­play in Tbil­isi, which failed to de­liver a sin­gle shot on tar­get, even more dif­fi­cult to di­gest.

A 3­2 loss to Ger­many at home three days later helped re­store a de­gree of pride, at least, even though the world cham­pi­ons never re­ally stepped out of third gear, but Re­gan re­ports that Stra­chan’s gen­eral de­meanour in the wake of those matches did make him won­der whether he had come to the end of the line.

“I’ve said on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions that the job suits Gor­don,” said Re­gan. “He likes the job be­cause it suits his way of life, but there was prob­a­bly a pe­riod af­ter the Georgia and Ger­many week­end where he was more down than I had seen him for a while. “I think we all were, ac­tu­ally. “Gor­don was down and that was the only mo­ment where I thought: ‘I won­der whether he’s go­ing to have the fight in him to take the World Cup on’?

“When we got to the end of the match against Gi­bral­tar in Por­tu­gal, though, he was elated at the re­ac­tion he got from the fans.

“If there was ever a doubt – and I don’t think there ever was – then that changed his mind and that sealed it.

“We were all hurt­ing about not quali­fy­ing, no­one more so than Gor­don be­cause, at the end of the day, he is a fan as well as the man­ager of the na­tional team.

“It was re­ally dis­ap­point­ing and heart­break­ing the way it hap­pened. We had one match we all look back on, the away match in Georgia.

“Had we got a dif­fer­ent re­sult, we might have been in a dif­fer­ent place now, but it’s time to pick our­selves up and look for­ward rather than lick­ing our wounds and look­ing back­wards.”

It is nec­es­sary, of course, to look back­wards at the Euro 2016 cam­paign in its en­tirety to as­sess the rea­sons why the Scot­tish FA were so ea­ger to tie Stra­chan down.

Scot­land en­tered the group as fourth seeds. They fin­ished fourth, hav­ing en­tered their fi­nal fix­ture away to Gi­bral­tar with all hope of mak­ing the play­offs ex­tin­guished.

There were some fine dis­plays over the course of the jour­ney, no doubt, and some dread­ful ones too. The hor­ror of Tbil­isi stands out, of course, but the first half against the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land in Dublin and the open­ing half­hour against Gi­bral­tar at Ham­p­den were abysmal.

To some, Scot­land did not main­tain the head of steam built up early in the cam­paign. Why, then, were the Scot­tish FA so ea­ger to put a new con­tract his way rather than take time to re­flect over the cam­paign when the dust had set­tled and con­sider all op­tions?

“The fans are good judges of whether the Scot­land team is per­form­ing or not and they are a good judge of the job a Scot­land man­ager is do­ing,” said Re­gan, at Ham­p­den Park yes­ter­day to an­nounce a new four­year part­ner­ship with Wil­liam Hill, which sees the book­mak­ing firm con­tinue as ti­tle spon­sor of the Scot­tish Cup and gain nam­ing rights over the South Stand at the Na­tional Sta­dium.

“What they like about the cur­rent Scot­land team is the way they play foot­ball, the style of play, the team spirit that Gor­don has built and the new blood such as Ikechi Anya and Andy Robert­son.

“As much as we haven’t qual­i­fied, we felt there was a new re­solve about the Scot­land team, a new at­ti­tude about not want­ing to be beaten and go­ing into ev­ery game believ­ing we can win.

“There was no fear and that says a lot about the way Gor­don has re­built and re­fo­cused the Scot­land team.

“It’s that feel­ing of no fear go­ing into the World Cup cam­paign believ­ing we have a chance.

“Gor­don and the se­nior play­ers be­lieve on our day we can beat any­one in the group, in­clud­ing England.”

Pic­ture: SNS

GLARE OF THE SPOT­LIGHT: Gor­don Stra­chan is very con­tent as Scot­land man­ager ac­cord­ing to Stew­art Re­gan.

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