Graeme Sharp feels the sting of Scotland’s footballing failures more keenly than most. But that does not mean he thinks the SFA should swing the axe on Gordon Strachan. Instead he says his former Scotland team-mate should be given a new deal.
The erstwhile Everton striker believes Strachan is doing the best he can with the current crop of players and insists there is no guarantee that a new manager will deliver success.
The SFA board meet today to discuss Strachan’s future, with the Scotland manager’s contract due to expire in two months. Sharp feels they should give Strachan another deal, rather than jettison the 60-year-old.
Sharp was in the same Scotland side as Strachan in the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico, when Uruguay’s hatchetmen ended the dreams of Alex Ferguson’s side.
Strachan insists that is still his worst moment in football, eclipsing even last Sunday’s nadir in Slovenia when his team blew their chances of a World Cup play-off place for Russia 2018 with a 2-2 draw.
Sharp was the Scot who was famously captured in that iconic picture from 1986 with his hair being pulled by a Uruguay defender. The 56-year-old still lives on Merseyside but felt the pain of Scotland’s latest finals heartbreak just as intensely as his compatriots.
“In some way, it probably feels worse living in England when Scotland don’t do well, and it’s a long time since we’ve done well,” said Sharp yesterday.
“As players, Gordon and I were part of an era where Scotland qualified for five World Cup finals in a row. Now it’s been 20 years since we’ve done it.
“We went to those 1986 finals on the back of a year where Everton and Liverpool were not just the best in England, but Europe. We both won a European trophy in ’85 – they won the Champions cup and Everton won the Cup Winners Cup and we won the English title twice in four years and Liverpool got the other two. When you look at the side Gordon had in Slovenia, it would not be able to compete in the English Premier League, never mind international football. It would be in the bottom half of the English Championship.
“No disrespect to players like Barry Bannan and Chris Martin, they are decent footballers but at international level, you have to be able to offer more.
“Are Scotland any better off than they were 10 years ago? I don’t think so. I think they are worse off. People are saying Gordon Strachan has to go. But who else are you going to bring in? I feel sorry for Gordon.
“He is at least being able to build his side around the Celtic players now, which is one glimmer of hope. I don’t think Gordon can do anything more than he is doing. I don’t know how the SFA look at the situation about Gordon’s future, or if they have someone lined up to replace him.
“The problem is they will listen to all the other people on the outside who are offering opinions right now. They should have the balls to stand
up to that and say ‘we don’t want anyone else’.
“The SFA have to look at the bigger picture than just a reaction to not qualifying again. They have to give Gordon Strachan the tools to work with, in terms of players, because he can’t be judged properly until he does.
“I was up in Glasgow for the Scotland-England game in June and there seemed to be a lot of negativity from some fans, and the media, to Gordon. But I don’t think someone new will do any better.”
One of the bookmaker’s favourites to replace Strachan, if he goes, is David Moyes. Sharp knows the former Everton manager well because the legendary striker is a club ambassador at Goodison Park.
Moyes is out of work after being sacked by Sunderland in May, but Sharp doubts the former Celtic defender will be tempted into the Hampden role.
“I don’t think Davie would want to take the Scotland job just now,” said Sharp.
“Davie had a long period of stability at Everton, when he was offered lots of other jobs. All the club managerial jobs in England will be better paid than the Scotland one. But I feel that Davie needs a club job which will start to raise his status again after the other setbacks he had at Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland.
“Davie is a good manager. He proved that at Everton. But would he want the Scotland job just now? Especially when he’s seen Gordon struggle with what he’s got at his disposal.
“The expectation levels now in football are crazy for managers, which is why you have Frank de Boer being sacked by Crystal Palace after seven games.”
Not even the most experienced manager in the business, Ferguson, could prevent Scotland from being dumped out of the Mexico World Cup finals 31 years ago.
“That Uruguay game still hurts,” said Sharp. “We had lost to Denmark and West Germany – when Gordon scored our goal – in the first two games of the group but Uruguay kicked everything for 90 minutes to get a 0-0 draw and we were on the plane home.”