By Martin Tighe
The position of Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager is now hanging on the shakiest of pegs, much like Scotland’s hopes of qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
After Friday night’s humiliating defeat at the hands of arch rivals England, the SFA and Strachan have a huge decision to make for the future of our national side. However, is that decision a straightforward one?
It appears to be cut and dry to many observers of the game that the manager’s time is now up. A faltering World Cup qualification campaign is following close on the heels of Scotland’s failure to make Euro 2016. But if Strachan was to vacate his role, would we really be in a better position than we already are?
Scotland’s line-up against England appeared at first glance to tick all the right boxes. The manager surprised the nation by his selection of probably his most attack minded side during his tenure. The loud cries to start with Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths were hard and the striker was handed a lone striker role. Scott brown returned to the middle of the park along with Daren Fletcher and the in form James Morrison. The width was provided by James Forrest and Robert Snodgrass while the only real dissent form supporters was the exclusion yet again of Oliver Burke.
The opening spell of the game suggested that Strachan was getting his message across to his players. In fact, despite going a goal down Scotland still looked dangerous and after an explosive start to the second half, should have been in the lead. Then, as we have seen time and time again, the wheels came off in dramatic fashion.
It is perhaps too easy to point the finger at Gordon Strachan. Individual errors cost Scotland a much needed result at Wembley. The blame for those those errors made by players cannot, and should not be laid at the door of Gordon Strachan. Would any other manager accept responsibility for a player’s mistake at club level? No, that player would be dropped for the following game. The same course of action cannot be taken by a Scotland manager unfortunately. The lack of strength in depth in the squad negates that course of action.
Even before the England match the names of possible replacements were being touted. Firstly, this is disrespectful to the manager and to his position. If we are to truly get behind the national side, creating this hysteria does not help. Secondly, would any of the suggested replacements really pick different players? When there is a limited choice available I would argue that not to be the case. Lars Lagerback is approaching the age of 70 – is he really up for the grief that comes with being the Scotland manager? David Moyes, another possible candidate, doesn’t have the greatest managerial record since leaving Everton. Alex McLeish has been out of work for a lengthy stretch and is it wise to revisit the past with him? And then there’s Michael O’Neill. Yes, he’s doing a fantastic job with Northern Ireland. Yes, he lives in Scotland. Yes, his country qualified for the last major finals – but that doesn’t guarantee success with Scotland.
Before the SFA, or the Scottish public for that matter, make the managerial decision, we as a nation should look at the real problem. The problem that has existed for nearly three decades now. The lack of talent being produced by this once proud footballing nation. The question is why? It is only when we understand what is really going wrong with the development of the game in Scotland will we truly be able to prepare for a successful qualifying campaign. Until that time comes, we will no doubt revert to type and simply sack the next manager.