PRECIOUS few, if any, Scotland fans will have shed a tear when the SFA announced that Gordon Strachan would not be in charge for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign when it gets underway in early 2019 at around half past three yesterday afternoon.
The excruciating 2-2 draw with Slovenia in Ljubljana on Sunday – a result which saw the national team miss out on a Russia 2018 play-off spot to Slovakia on goal difference – is too fresh in the memory for the end of his tenure to be mourned just now.
But will the passage of time lead to members of the Tartan Army reflecting on Strachan’s tenure, even with its unsuccessful attempts to reach the finals of two successive tournaments, more favourably?
Supporters, who laud a coach as a footballing messiah following a victory one week only to stand outside a stadium calling for him to be sacked after a defeat the next, are a notoriously fickle lot.
Yet, his tenure deserves to be, despite the fact that he ultimately failed to deliver what he was brought in to achieve, looked back on in a positive light in future.
The 60-year-old restored pride in a side which had, at times during the previous decade become nothing short of a laughing stock, due to both woefully inadequate performances on the park and disaffection and disarray off it, and gave hope to a country where previously there was nothing but despair.
He was far from perfect. His team selections could be baffling at times. He could be unnecessarily prickly with the broadcast media. His loyalty to certain players was sometimes misjudged too. His refusal to pick form men undoubtedly cost him in the end.
Would he have suffered this fate if he had bowed to public pressure at the start of the Russia 2018 bid and fielded Leigh Griffiths, who had just scored 40 goals in all competitions for Celtic the previous season, up front?
Would somebody else, though, have done any better with the distinctly limited group of players, with the centre backs in particular, which he had at his disposal? His detractors say so. But many more will disagree. Time will now tell.
It is certainly worth remembering what state Scotland were in when he succeeded Craig Levein as manager back at the start of 2013 when assessing his reign.
The former Hearts, Leicester City and Dundee United manager had been sacked with his side sitting at the bottom of their World Cup qualifying group following draws with Serbia and Macedonia and defeats to Wales and Belgium.
Under the former centre half the national team only won three of their 12 competitive matches – narrow one goal wins over Lithuania at home and tiny Liechtenstein at home and away.
After starting off encouragingly enough with a 1-0 win over Estonia at Pittodrie, fittingly for a man who made his name in Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Aberdeen team of the late 1970s and early 1980s, he struggled.
Defeats to Wales at home and Serbia away followed for the former Coventry City, Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough manager.
The turning point came with a 1-0 win over Croatia in Zagreb. That was backed up by another win over the same opponents at home as well as a late triumph over Macedonia away. Suddenly, the future looked altogether more promising.
Switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation suited Scotland perfectly. It protected centre backs who were, although honest and hard-working professionals, the undoubted weak point in the team.
Furthermore, the players liked and respected Strachan. There were no mass call-offs whenever there was a friendly international. That was not the case previously.
Nor was there a whiff of scandal like the infamous Boozegate affair – which led to Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor being handed lifetime bans – that had done nothing to instil faith in George Burley.
Every member of the Scotland squad bought into what Strachan was advocating, too. His message was simple and it worked. The bid to reach Euro 2016 started encouragingly with a slender defeat to newly-crowned world champions Germany, a win over Georgia, a com-mendable draw with Poland and a rousing triumph over the Republic of Ireland.
The draw with Ireland and the defeat to Georgia that followed, however, left Scotland facing an uphill battle to finish in the top three of their section and land a play-off place.
When Robert Lewandowski equalised for Poland in the last minute of the penultimate group game at Hampden it – together with an improbably win for Ireland over Germany in Dublin – spelled the end of their hopes. Another case of what might have been.
Strachan decided, after having his name chanted by supporters in the dead rubber against Gibraltar in Faro, to stay on for another crack at it.
The draw to Lithuania, defeat to Slovakia and loss to England that followed a routine win over Malta resulted in calls for him to be sacked and it seemed inconceivable he would survive. But he persevered.
What followed was an undefeated run – which included a record-equalling three game winning streak – against Slovenia, England, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia in their next six World Cup qualifiers. To take 14 points out of a possible 18 was, not even his most vociferous critic would disagree, impressive.
In the end, as has so often been the case since France ’98, it wasn’t quite enough. The late equaliser which Scotland allowed Harry Kane to score in the fourth minute of injury-time at Hampden in June, cost them a play-off place and Strachan his job.
Few in Scotland championed the causes of Ikechi Anya and Chris Martin, two men who have been important players for their adopted homeland. He also handed debuts to Armstrong, Oliver Burke, John McGinn, Matt Ritchie, Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney. Going forward, the spine of a half-decent side is there.
Scotland’s latest failure to reach the World Cup is as much due to the many shortcomings of the youth set-up in this country as those of Gordon Strachan and it remains to be seen if they will continue to hamper the efforts of whoever takes over.