Derek John­stone’s ver­dict over SFA axe: Full story in­side your 12-page sports pullout


THE Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion are set to scour the world in their search for a new Scot­land man­ager af­ter sack­ing Alex McLeish yes­ter­day. Scot Gem­mill, the Scot­land Un­der21 man­ager, and Steve Clarke, the for­mer Chelsea and Liver­pool assistant who has im­pressed greatly dur­ing his two sea­sons in charge of Kil­marnock, have been in­stalled as the book­mak­ers’ favourites to take over. Malky Mackay, the SFA Per­for­mance Di­rec­tor, Davie Moyes, the for­mer Ever­ton, Manch­ester United and Real So­ciedad man­ager, Derek McInnes, the Aberdeen man­ager, and Gordon Stra­chan, who McLeish suc­ceeded last year, have also been touted as pos­si­ble con­tenders. How­ever, the gov­ern­ing body, who an­nounced yes­ter­day that McLeish would be leav­ing his post with the na­tional team with im­me­di­ate ef­fect due to the dis­ap­point­ing start his side have made to their Euro 2020 qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign, haven’t ruled out ap­point­ing an over­seas coach. Berti Vogts, the Ger­man World Cup win­ner who led Scot­land to a Euro 2004 play-off place de­spite hav­ing a trou­bled two-and-three-quar­ter year reign, re­mains the only for­eigner to have held the po­si­tion. But se­nior SFA of­fi­cials, who are hop­ing to have the new man on board in time for the Group I dou­ble header against Cyprus at home and Bel­gium away in June, are open to the pos­si­bil­ity of bring­ing an­other non-Scot on board. Slaven Bilic, the for­mer Croa­tia man­ager who has been out of work since be­ing sacked by Al-It­ti­had in Saudi Arabia in Fe­bru­ary, has also been mooted as a po­ten­tial can­di­date. The SFA an­nounced yes­ter­day morn­ing fol­low­ing a sched­uled meet­ing of the board at Ham­p­den that

McLeish’s tur­bu­lent 14-month reign had come to an end and that his assistant coaches, Pe­ter Grant, James McFad­den and Stevie Woods, would also leave their roles. With the Tar­tan Army hav­ing re­acted an­grily to a 3-0 loss to Kaza­khstan in their open­ing Group I match last month, the SFA board mem­bers are con­scious of a grow­ing ap­a­thy among sup­port­ers ahead of the cru­cial meet­ing with Cyprus at Ham­p­den. It is a match the na­tional team must win to stand any chance of fin­ish­ing in the top two in their sec­tion and qual­i­fy­ing au­to­mat­i­cally for next sum­mer’s fi­nals. SFA chief ex­ec­u­tive Ian Maxwell said: “On be­half of the board, I would like to place on record my thanks to Alex and his back­room team for their ef­forts in leading the na­tional team over the past 12 months, not least in top­ping our UEFA Na­tions League group and reach­ing the play-offs. “The de­ci­sion to part com­pany was not an easy one, es­pe­cially given Alex’s sta­tus as a Scot­land Hall of Fame mem­ber, earn­ing 77 in­ter­na­tional caps, hav­ing played in three World Cups and taken charge of the na­tional team for two spells. “It was only taken af­ter full con­sid­er­a­tion by the board and af­ter an hon­est and re­spect­ful con­ver­sa­tion be­tween my­self and Alex ear­lier in the week. “Ul­ti­mately, the per­for­mances and re­sults as a whole in the past year – and, in par­tic­u­lar, the man­ner of the de­feat in Kaza­khstan – did not in­di­cate the progress ex­pected with a squad we be­lieve to be ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing more. “With that in mind, it was agreed that we would seek to re­cruit a new man­age­ment team to take us for­ward for the re­main­der of Euro­pean qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign.” He added: “At this point I would like to pay trib­ute to Alex for the good grace with which he has ac­cepted the de­ci­sion and for re­main­ing un­stint­ing in his sup­port of the team for the re­main­der of the cam­paign. It be­fits his sta­tus as a Scot­land leg­end and Hall of Fame in­ductee.” McLeish said: “I am grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to have man­aged my coun­try for a sec­ond time and leave know­ing that I gave my all in the pur­suit of suc­cess. “I am proud that to­gether we fin­ished top of our UEFA Na­tions League group and qual­i­fied for the UEFA Euro 2020 play-offs, which gives us a real op­por­tu­nity to reach a ma­jor tour­na­ment for the first time in over 20 years. “I am also pleased to have given many younger play­ers a first taste of in­ter­na­tional foot­ball that will stand them – and the coun­try – in good stead.”

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