Scottish attentions are now focused on qualifying for the 2020 European Championships after an unexpected late surge brought about a narrowly heartbreaking fall at the last hurdle in Slovenia. It seemed unlikely just over a year ago, though, with a defeat at Wembley to the Auld Enemy leaving us with a mountain to climb.
The heartbreaking failure to qualify for a second tournament running left many in the Tartan Army questioning the future of boss Gordon Strachan who is confirmed as being on his way out the door. We cajoled some of the Scottish contingent here on By Far The Greatest Team and brought in some from our sister sites to give us their take on the announcement, Strachan’s tenure and who to look towards as a replacement:
I’m kind of torn because on the one hand Strachan has made some monumentally baffling decisions. His decision that Ikechi Anya is an international player that can change games is a questionable one as was his continued hesitance to utilise the clearly superior Leigh Griffiths over the likes of Chris Martin. Oh, and his continued choosing of Barry Bannan and Christophe Berra.
That being said, he deserves credit for going back on himself and making Griffiths the focal point up front where we looked infinitely better. He deserves credit for taking a poor start in this qualifying campaign and galvanising the team to almost reaching the play-offs with some positive performances. I don’t think we’d have got through the play-offs mind but that’s an entirely different story. He’s integrated a new generation of players like Tierney into the set-up and kept everyone happy and positive and believing in his methods even when the fans and the media don’t.
That being said, it did feel like the end of the line with his press conference in Slovenia and his stupid genetics comment. It sounded like he’d just given up and felt that he’d done everything he could and the players weren’t good enough. Iceland are a smaller nation and they made the best of their resources to qualify making Strachan’s point entirely redundant. It’s probably for the best if he leaves and credit to him and the SFA for their forward thinking in announcing this now.
As for replacements, if you want Scottish then really the only man for the job right now would be Derek McInnes. Whether he’d want the job is another matter altogether. A foreign manager is risky because the Scottish press are notoriously narrow-minded at the best of times when it comes to new ideas. It also depends on who they get if they do go foreign. We need someone who has done his homework and knows exactly what he wants to do with national team and believes that he can take us to a tournament which is the only goal at this point.
Should Strachan have remained in charge? No thanks, not for me. Yes recent form had improved but has this been through desperation, necessity, luck or tactical genius? Certainly not the latter. With each game in isolation Malta and Lithuania should be dispatched with relative ease, we (Griffiths) scored two world class free kicks v England at ridiculous odds, scored late winners against Slovakia and Slovenia at home then were totally outclassed for 60 minutes v Slovenia away but managed to scrape a draw. But the Manager’s Union will have us believe that Strachan had single handedly saved Scottish football!
Since he took over 5 years ago we have improved yes, but we couldn’t be much worse let’s face it. He has regularly ignored in form players, without bias, despite popular belief. Jordan Rhodes, Ross McCormack, Charlie Mulgrew, Andy Robertson, Callum Paterson, James McArthur, Graham Dorrans, Leigh Griffiths, Stuart Armstrong, Callum McGregor, Barrie McKay and John McGinn all players who he has picked eventually or not at all whilst playing others who have little or no club form.
He has kept faith with under-performing players in key areas and changed them too late such as David Marshall, Steven Fletcher, Chris Martin, Robert Snodgrass, Russell Martin, Grant Hanley and Barry Bannan to name but a few. Young players paths are blocked to the senior squad by senior players often not even playing at club level. See the current crop of centre halves and central midfielders as the best current example.
He has had pretty much the same squad since he took over with the exception of Robertson and Tierney. Yet still doesn’t know his best 11 and still picks Anya as a winger, how many chances has he created or goals scored for Scotland? He has too many favourites and this will continue into the next campaign until, again, it is too late.
We have the players, but we don’t have the right person picking the right ones just now. Cheers Gordon thanks for wasting two decent groups we should have at least finished second from!
Moving forward I would like to see Big Sam with someone like Gary McAllister/Steve Clarke assisting him. A decent man manager with coaches that have Scottish experience and knowledge. Whoever it is they must be willing to bring through the younger players or be given that remit by the SFA.
On the surface, failure in two consecutive qualifying campaigns, means he had to go in my opinion. But digging deeper into a few specifics of Strachan’s tenure, my opinion on why he had to go only gets stronger. Firstly, there’s the single word that is still so fresh in our minds, genetics. So many things factor in to why it’s a ridiculous statement. Strachan’s own build and the career he had, Spain’s success and style with a smaller team, the fact he took off Chris Martin at a critical stage of the Slovenia game, the sheer volume of other Olympic level and successfully athletes in other sports that our country has produced, and so many more.
Secondly, there’s some of the strange decisions he’s made across the qualifying campaigns. Persisting with players plying their trade down south, like Hanley, Bannan, Anya, who either barely play any club football or haven’t been performing at a good enough standard to be considered for the squad, hasn’t been well received by the Tartan Army. Especially so when players who were performing far better than those mentioned, such as Liam Cooper or Tom Cairney, could have been brought in in their place. The most baffling decision for me was the length of time it took for Leigh Griffiths to be given a sure-fire starting spot. While some might be giving Strachan credit for turning the recent campaign around and almost taking us to the playoffs from having no chance, some of the decisions he made were bankers in the eyes of fans. What if Griffiths had come on earlier than the 71st minute in that pivotal 1-1 draw against Lithuania at home? What if he’d played from the start?
Finally, his attitude has been downright negative. Strachan’s media work across the years has made him well known for the kind of remarks that he’s made on countless occasions through his tenure as national team manager. However, these remarks have always been so wide of the mark for me. Related to the genetics point, he talks down our game and our players. We know we don’t have a Messi, Ronaldo or Bale, but we don’t need the then manager of our national team constantly reminding us of this. We shouldn’t have needed a world-class player to beat Lithuania at home, or Georgia away. Goodbye Gordon.
There definitely was a case to be made for Gordon Strachan to keep his job. I mean, his reign is infinitely better than his predecessor, Craig ‘4-6-0’ Levein, with Strachan having the absolute audacity to field TWO strikers in a Scotland team. What a trailblazer that man was!
To finish essentially one goal away from the World Cup with a team which is overall worse than our Slovakian rivals, means Strachan and Scotland deserve some form of credit.
Admittedly, the ‘one goal away’ method of thinking is too simplistic. What the country is crying out for is a team that plays with an identity. It’s no surprise that the two home nations who play with a proud identity and recognisable style (Wales and Northern Ireland) are the two that are going through ‘golden eras’.
Meanwhile, England and Scotland seem content with taking each result completely separate from the last, happy to play unconvincingly to say the least, as long as they squeeze out wins. It’s what likely what cost Strachan his job and what may get Gareth Southgate in the future – the lack of conviction to drop older ‘established’ players in favour of a system which benefits the team.
Strachan’s classic media quotes also did him no good in any campaign for him to stay. Using genetics as a reason for failing to qualify for the World Cup is irony at its absolute finest. Three of Scotland’s finest ever players – Jimmy Johnstone, Kenny Dalglish and Strachan himself – were all under five foot eight.
Before the announcement yesterday, my opinion on Strachan’s performance so far was somewhat conflicted. There is no doubt the last 6 games have seen a real improvement in terms of results. Performances are always going to be a mixed bag when you have the sort of squad Scotland have. And if I’m honest, before a ball was kicked in this qualifying group, there was only one result we actually achieved which I wouldn’t have taken, and that was the draw at home with Lithuania.
However, there is definitely an argument for his departure. A refusal to pick players in form like Leigh Griffiths, and then giving the reasoning of height and defending set pieces, is never going to put a manager in a great position. I’m a believer in players needing to take more responsibility. If a manager gives you every opportunity to do well and you can’t, it’s on you. Strachan wasn’t doing that for too long. Even as someone who didn’t think it was as easy as “just play that guy”, I was aware that better teams could and should have been picked. He’s also ignored a number of players over the years who should at least be in the squad.
Qualification for the World Cup was always a long shot. So I had to look beyond that as the barometer, and that’s why the recent performances gave me cause for optimism. In true Scottish football fashion though, he managed to sound absolutely nuts by mentioning genetics once too often. That will now be how he’s remembered.
Scotland aren’t going to improve in any dramatic fashion any time soon. Despite some decent players who could be involved, there’s no superstar or game changer waiting to come in. We have promising youngsters in the youth teams, but we say that every year and it rarely transpires into much. The replacement for Strachan has to be decided in line with our approach. Let me explain that better.
Are we looking for a short-term fix, someone who can get the results to qualify for a major tournament? This would be the “easy” option, and the SFA could throw money at someone and hope for the best. Managers like Moyes or Allardyce would demand a big salary, but could make us harder to beat and grind out results.
Or, should we look towards a longer term approach? The success of Iceland of late should come as no surprise to anyone who has kept up with their development over the years. They put a huge focus on youth prospects, worked towards a more unified approach for club and country, and it’s reaping the rewards. Should Scotland look to do similar? Right now, if we lost a number of players in the 24-30 age range, as we want to build a squad for 4 or 6 years from now, would we feel like we’ve missed out on much? It’s a risk, of course, as obvious superstars aren’t apparent. Despite that, we could save money on allowing a younger, hungry coach to oversee the development, and work closer with the clubs to support this.
I don’t see the latter even being considered. The decision-makers at the SFA, who should be under huge pressure, are coasting by and know that bringing in a high profile name will take the focus away from them. If I was forced to bet on it, I’d say David Moyes will be the next Scotland manager. I’m just not convinced that’s the approach we should take.