Regan: I feared Gordon would quit following Georgia defeat
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.”
GLARE OF THE SPOTLIGHT: Gordon Strachan is very content as Scotland manager according to Stewart Regan.