Scotland Manager – A Nation Awaits, A Nation Expects

Russia 2018 was supposed to be “This Time.” A slogan that the Scottish Football Association decided was suitable for the most recent qualifying campaign, they failed. So who knows what the PR team will come up with for Euro 2020? “Please god! This time, c’mon now it’s our turn” maybe?

Less than a week after the usual high expectation and coming up heartbreakingly short ,the SFA have decide to part company with Gordon Strachan.

There were no excuses because he didn’t have any left to give. Despite the supporting words of other fellow managers in the recent days, Strachan had used up all his lives and had to go.

The 2-2 draw in Slovenia saw the nation miss out on a World Cup playoff place by virtue of goal difference to Slovakia. Of course, the damage was not done in Ljubljana, but earlier in a campaign that had started so poorly.

His departure on the back of a phenomenal 2017 will at least see the Scots climb the world rankings to a respectable position of 29th.

Gordon-Strachan-Image

After nearly 5 years at the helm, Strachan walks away with a win % of 47.5 from his 40 matches in charge. He has a decent record against what you would consider tournament nations, no defeats to the likes of Poland, ROI, Croatia and Denmark, however – like many before him, it was the disappointments of the Georgia’s and Lithuania’s that saw him come up short.

But who can become the first Scotland manager since Craig Brown to get the team over the line?

It is THE question that will preoccupy the minds of Alan McRae, Stuart Regan and other SFA board members, the supporters and the journalists but it’s fair to suggest that with the floundering reputations of those in high profile Hampden positions on the line, it will not be a quick appointment.

Going by the bookies it is a straight decision between David Moyes and recently appointed Interim Manager Malky MacKay for the Hampden hot seat. Most Scots will be dreading either of these men being given a chance. It doesn’t have to be a Scot, especially when the current choices are so poor. Allardyce has ruled himself out, Prandelli has thrown his hat into the ring and they are dreaming if they think they’ll be able to prise Michael O’Neill away from Northern Ireland.

mackaymoyes1210a

Scotland need to heed the word from their own national anthem. Flower of Scotland urges them to “be the nation again” and this is exactly what is required. All they have to do is look at other home nations and they’ll quickly realise they are somehow being left behind.

Northern Ireland have recently given international call-ups to players from clubs such as Linfield, Dunfermline, Shrewsbury, Doncaster Rovers and Wigan. In Slovenia, Scotland had the luxury of two Champions League players sitting on the bench.

Wales have a slightly more “premier league” XI than the others, and of course the talent of Gareth Bale to call upon. However a couple of injuries / suspensions and they too are scrambling for replacements.

Strachan’s last excuse was that of “genetics.”

Well Gordon, we’re sorry point this out but the Ireland’s are hardly picking from a freakish gene pool nor have they a single player of anything approaching world class…both O’Neill’s took their teams to the Euros and both have made the play-offs for Russia.

The wait for tens of thousands of Scots to board planes destined for a major tournament continues, 20 years without appearing in World Cups or European Championships is agonising to say the least. The next man has a reasonable squad capable, he just needs to find the right results at the right times.

Gordon Strachan image sourced from; www.thesun.co.uk/sports/football
David Moyles and Malkay Mackay image sourced from; www.thestandard.co.uk

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What Happened to the Netherlands?

South Africa 2010 and a resurgent nation with a 100% qualifying record arrive on the grandest stage in football, The World Cup Final. Albeit a game remembered more for unpunished tackles than skill or quality, you had a feeling that we were about to see one of the sports’ most recognisable nations go on and become a major force once again.

Euro 2012 saw a slump of epic proportions and 3 defeats in the group stage – in their defence it was a group-of-death scenario. Losing to Germany, Portugal and Denmark is no disgrace at this level.

They re-grouped and in Brazil finished a respectable 3rd under the guidance of inbound Man Utd manager LVG. Putting 5 past the reigning champions Spain and 3 past the host nation is no easy feat and it has to be remembered they were only denied a 2nd successive World Cup Final by a couple of spot kicks. In all you would have to agree, a major tournament record that most could only dream of.

Fast-forward to current times and in early 2017 this proud footballing nation are in total disarray!

The recent 2-0 defeat at the hands of Bulgaria was described as “the worst Dutch performance in 50 years.”

The Ornaje are currently 4th in their Russia 2018 qualifying group, only looking down on Belarus and usual “whipping boys” Luxembourg.

Head coach Danny Blind has been removed from his position leaving Fred Grim to take temporary charge, has there ever been a more aptly named caretaker manager?

Blind, father of Man Utd defender Daley, had lost 7 of his 17 matches in charge. The former international’s record was a contributing factor to missing out on an inflated Euro 2016 altogether.

Soccer WCup 2018 Bulgaria Netherlands

So what has gone wrong?

Well much-maligned former Man Utd manager Van Gaal got the squad to buy into his “philosophy” and the handover to Guus Hiddink was disastrous, this forced the men in orange to start again.

Take the formation, for example. Normally, the Dutch pride themselves on playing attacking football in a 4-3-3 setup. He implemented a 5-3-2 formation with the preference to play on the counter.

Their most recently named selections were missing the mainstays of Van Persie, Huntelaar, De Jong and Ron Vlaar from recent years. Their defence in particular lacks a leader with real experience, walking yellow card Bruno Martins Indi is their current and most capped centre half.

They are no longer feared on the international stage as the improving nations across the continent catch up to what is a questionable current squad. Unknowns from the Eredivise are only just winning their 1st international recognition’s in their late 20’s, far too late.

Surely we can’t see a nation such as this miss out on a 2nd major tourney in succession?

It is over to The Royal Dutch Football Association to identify a new manager to point Robben & co to Moscow.

Danny Blind image sourced from www.indianexpress.com/sports/football

 

Scotland 2018 – This Time?

Less than 2 months after Portugal were crowned Euro 2016 champions it’s already time to start a new qualifying campaign!

Given the excitement of having 4 home nations make it to France certainly put things into perspective for the Scots who were sitting at home, enviously watching everyone else having the time of their lives across the channel.

The only bright spark in their gloomy summer was Iceland shocking a continent and sending the Auld Enemy home a lot earlier than many had predicted.

The rest of the nearest and dearest Wales, Northern Ireland and ROI are now on a new level, they have tournament experience and are nations carrying a different expectation altogether.

The SFA have come up with the slogan of “THIS TIME.” for Russia 2018 qualifying group F, so is it to be long haul flights to Moscow or further glorious failure?

Scotland-This-Time

Scotland have been drawn with Malta, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia and England. Even the staunchest supporter sat in the Hampden Park stands will concede that Sam Allardyce’s men will win the group and more than likely, at a canter. We all know where England’s failings lie and it’s not at this stage, in fact they may even be glad of having what should be 2 tough games. This is more than they have had in previous years in the run up to a tournament. A table topping England would leave the Scots fighting for the play off place in the table.

As much as both nations will be looking forward to these games in the calendar this is not where Scotland’s progress will be decided. The trips to Slovenia and Slovakia hold the key… They must not be repeats of Georgia 2007 or 2015!

The SFA have completed the 1st task in ensuring ordering of the fixtures reads well. Playing Malta and Lithuania back-to-back on two occasions gives good opportunity for 6 points at key times in the group. The England games fall in the middle and regardless of the results it should not damage any optimism or derail form, this leaves the BIG finish…

Slovakia at Hampden on 5th October 2017 and Slovenia away a few days later. These are the much heralded 6 pointers, although we think 4 would do and avoiding defeat in either is more than likely going to be a must.

30 points on offer over the next 13 months and we feel a total of 20 needs to be the aim. This is allowing for defeats to England and Slovakia along what we’re sure will be a bumpy road.

Can it be done with what is available we hear you ask? Well let’s throw out a few positives to add to the hope that is always present at the beginning:-

  • Scotland have a new star in Oliver Burke, a recent £13m transfer to RB Leipzig and comparisons to Bale will do for starters
  • Matt Ritchie has been a find, the Newcastle winger has taken to international football like a duck to water, he’ll be a key man
  • Leigh Griffiths is one of the deadliest strikers in Europe, we don’t care what anyone says he should be regarded higher than he currently is
  • They are blessed at left back. Robertson and Tierney = enough said
  • The potential XI below leaves out the likes of Wallace, Maloney, McArthur, McCormack and Rhodes

One major worry for those world -famous passionate fans is at centre half. Berra, Martin, Greer and Hanley can play well but can also provide heart palpitations from Dundee to Dumfries! Perhaps a “we’ll score 1 more than you” attitude may have to be adopted.

The potential Scotland starting XI with everyone fit and suspension free looks like a decent side to us;

Scotland-Starting-11

Let’s also note that wee Gordon needs to be fair with his team selection, just because you have inks to the Old Firm shouldn’t guarantee you a starting place. ALAN HUTTON we’re talking about you!

Difficult decisions are part of his job and this time out he needs to be firmer. Don’t attempt to squeeze Naismith in, if Fletcher isn’t scoring for Sheff Wed then don’t start him or McKay is playing mid-table SPL football then leave him out of the squad.

So let the touch paper be lit in Ta’Qali on Sunday evening and see what Strachan and his troops can deliver this time around.

Qualification gives hero status’ whereas failure leaves the SFA with no option but to begin a search for a new management team.

With good selections, belief and a bit of luck on their side it could very well be all aboard for Russia.

World Cup Finals 2018? Let’s hope so, The Tartan Army deserve a European adventure.

Scotland This Time Image Sourced from SFA Twitter; https://twitter.com/ScottishFA
Scotland Starting 11 Image Sourced from LineUp11 App