Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gordon Strachan

Scotland yesterday confirmed that Gordon Strachan will be the latest manager to try and improve the seemingly hopeless fortunes of what once upon a time used to be a national team that punched well above its' weight.

Since appearing at France '98, Scotland have failed to qualify for a major tournament and haven't even come close since losing out to England in the play off for Euro 2000.

Given the paucity of options and the desire for a Scot to be in charge, Strachan would appear to be the best candidate available for the job. Strachan's managerial career has not all been plain sailing but he has had success with the likes of Southampton and many forget that he was far more successful in terms of trophies in his time at Celtic than Martin O'Neil was.

The other factor that gives comfort to his hiring is that under his stewardship, Celtic reached the last 16 of the Champions League twice which is no mean feat and suggests a manager that possesses some tactical acumen at a level outside of purely the domestic game.

Strachan however has a tough task ahead of him - although some may argue can it get much worse? - trying to coax the best out of what is at best an honest group of players. The two Fletchers, Steven and Darren as well as Steven Naismith offer some genuine quality but the reality is a squad that compromises many players from the Championship in England or in Scotland outwith the top clubs.

The game from bottom up in Scotland needs to be fixed in order for any manager to have success with the national team again. The reality is that Scotland do not produce players of the quality of leading lights such as Souness, Dalglish, Strachan himself and Hansen from yesteryear and even more recently players such as Gary McAllister, John Collins, Barry and Duncan Ferguson or even a young Scott Brown.

Given that depressing picture, there would appear little that Strachan can do as the reality is that there will now always be one and more than likely two teams in any group that are far superior to Scotland with the prospects for tough third and four tier teams to play again with the real prospect of Scotland's coefficient falling even further. Unless something is changed drastically, the reality is that Scotland may never again qualify for a major tournament - just ask the Welsh how long ago 1958 was.

The other issue for Strachan will be his relationship with the press. Whilst Levein was ill equipped and too inexperienced - the best of a bad bunch maybe - to manage at international level, a part of his downfall was his spiky interaction with the media.

Whilst at Celtic, Strachan morphed from a wise cracking interviewee into a malicious, bullying and aggressive presence at press conferences and post match interviews. Patience with him wore thin and over time it appeared to have an effect on his relationship with the Celtic fans who admittedly had never fully accepted him from the start on the basis that he simply wasn't Martin O'Neill.

No one can blame Strachan for wanting nor accepting the job. Playing or managing one's country is after all a great honour, and Scotland should also be delighted on their part with the appointment as other than playing to the patriotism of a National there is little else to appeal in the job.

Whether Strachan however can be a success is highly debatable given paucity of tools at his disposal and his predilection to falling out with the media. This blog wishes him well but the reality is that there will be no quick fix for the Scottish national team nor for its' wider game as a whole - No Nonsense.