GORDON Strachan’s four-year reign as Scotland manager hangs in the balance today – as the SFA board learn whether he still has the appetite to continue in the role and weigh up whether to hand him a third chance to take Scotland to a major finals.
The 60-year-old will not be present at the scheduled board meeting which will get under way at Hampden Park in mid-morning, and a statement may or may not be released afterwards, but even assuming he has indicated to chief executive Stewart Regan that he is willing to continue in the post, the eight men gathered around the table will have much to talk about.
While Strachan has twice received the ‘unanimous’ backing of the board, at times during his reign when results have been poorer than the four wins and two draws with Scotland managed in their last six matches, Herald Sport understands that certain attitudes around the boardroom table have hardened after that mid-campaign upsurge came up short with that 2-2 draw against Slovenia on Sunday. The manager’s current contract, agreed after the end of the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, expires next month.
While SFA President Alan McRae has previously been hugely supportive of the Scotland manager, and his views have been largely echoed by chief executive Stewart Regan, the Yorkshireman will also be aware that ultimately it is the association’s office bearers such as he who must carry the can for the men’s national team’s failure to make it to a national finals in his decade in post. Stuck between being seen to tolerate failure to qualify, and cut losses in a man who he personally appointed, the SFA chief executive in particular may find himself between a rock and a hard place if Strachan opts to continue.
The eight-man board charged with making the decision has changed only slightly from the grouping which offered Strachan their blessing some 12 months ago. They are: McRae, Regan, vice president Rod Petrie, non executive directors Barrie Jackson and Gary Hughes, while Alloa Athletic chairman Mike Mulraney has been joined by Partick Thistle’s Ian Maxwell as representatives of the Professional Game Board, with Scottish Amateur FA supremo Thomas McKeown replacing Junior FA boss Tom Johnston. If unanimity cannot be found, the board could proceed on a majority decision.
“In fairness, it’s also down to Gordon and what he does or doesn’t want,” McRae said prior to the 2-0 win against Slovakia, back when qualification seemed hopeful. “But we haven’t gone down that road yet. That will come after the campaign. The last thing we want, indeed Gordon wants, is for anything to get in the way of the immediate task — namely, trying to get a play-off place and, beyond that, a place at the World Cup finals.
“But Gordon and his staff will, of course, face judgement by qualifying or not qualifying. We will ALL be judged. However I’ve no doubt the team has been galvanised and the potential for that was always there.”
The next assignment for the Scotland manager – whether it is Strachan or anyone else – is the Euro 2020 qualifying draw, which takes place in Dublin on December 2, with the first competitive match not until the start of the Uefa Nations League the following September. Four matches will be played at Hampden during a tournament which has long been crucial to the SFA’s long-term strategy and again will include 24 teams.