Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Wed 28 November 2007

It's a sad, sad situation

It doesn't get any better for Scottish football fans. As if failing to qualify for Euro 2008 at the latest possible moment wasn't bad enough, now they find that their inspirational leader Alex McLeish has resigned and won't be there to begin the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

It's a shame as the Scottish FA must have considered itself lucky to have appointed McLeish the last time they were in this situation on January 10th of this year when Walter Smith resigned. Under Smith's guidance, Scotland seemed to be pointing in the right direction once again, despite failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. After an excellent start to the Euro 2008 campaign which included a 1-0 home win against France, Scotland soon found themselves seventy places higher up the FIFA rankings than when Smith arrived.

When Smith left, however, it seemed as though the momentum Smith he'd brought to the team needed to be maintained at a time when it was needed most. Many fans could have been excused for thinking that their luck wouldn't stretch to seeing the appointment of an equally capable successor, but Alex McLeish soon arrived and before long it was 'business as usual'. Scotland seemed to go from strength to strength, maintaining their place near or at the top of Euro 2008 qualifying Group B and a win over France at the Parc des Princes gave hope of a place in the Finals.

Sadly once again the hopes of the nation were dashed as Scotland missed out on qualification by a single point, but many fans knew that hope remained of future success as long as that hard-fought-for momentum could be maintained. How depressed they must feel now McLeish has been lured back to club football just like his predecessor.

All of which leaves me feeling a little perplexed. Fundamentally one side of my brain is crying out for a Scottish coach that wants to get his team to the finals of a major competition, while the other is savvy enough to realise that a pay cheque four times the size of the one the SFA were offering is just what you need to pay off all those nasty household bills.

I've got to admit to being more than a little disappointed in McLeish though. His spell as coach of Scotland's football team lasted just ten matches which didn't even cover an entire qualification campaign. Being a Scotsman, you'd think it would be your ultimate dream to try and steer the football team of your homeland to glory and success, and yet the lure of the Premier League - and not even a top Premier League club in Birmingham City (no offence intended) - has proven a higher priority for him.

So how do the SFA avoid this happening for a third successive time in future? Well they should start looking for some wealthy private investors for a start. Any generous donations from people like Billy Connolly, Sean Connery or Jackie Stewart might be warmly welcomed as that could be the only way to tempt McLeish's successor to stay in the position.

Secondly, appointing someone who has no desire to manage in the Premier League or SPL would be useful. What about someone who already has done? Suitable names that spring to mind are Jim Jeffries, the 57-year-old Kilmarnock manager who has done wonders on a shoestring budget and would consider this a fitting end to his career, Sir Alex Ferguson, who, let's face it, has done all he can at Man United and might be tempted by a less intense way to ease into retirement, or even Kenny Dalglish who's been there, tried it and didn't like it much.

Paul Sturrock and Craig Levein have had some success at club level but could be considered an unknown quantity in an international context. Graeme Souness? Hardly a bankable success, I'd have thought.

Wait a minute… it says here that the SFA will look into potential candidates regardless of whether they currently hold a managerial position or not. That means it could be someone who's currently managing elsewhere. Well there you are, then - problem solved… go for Gordon Strachan. They'll be able to tempt him with the money gained from the £1 million in compensation Birmingham City may cough up, so what are you waiting for Scotland? Get on the phone to Gordon and tell him 'we sent for you.' He'll understand...

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