On Sunday night, sitting in Ljubljana, I was in no doubt that the end had arrived for Gordon Strachan.
That said, I’d thought the same after we’d lost to England at Wembley last year, having taken four points from four games. It seemed a good time to make a clean break, with a long gap until the next game, with six games left to give a new guy a bit of a chance.
But amazingly, Gordon Strachan and the Scotland players, managed to turn everything around. Did I think we could win five of the six remaining games? No I didn’t, but he almost pulled it off.
Scotland are unbeaten in 2017, a remarkable effort considering where he and the squad were, accruing 14 out of 18 points available. You could see why whether Strachan stayed or went was going to be a marginal decision. You could see it, if you wanted to see it that way. But here is how I viewed it.
Two-and-a-half campaigns, four-and-a- half years, nearly half a decade if you like of what? Failure, that’s what.
Gordon Strachan’s target was simple; get Scotland to major finals for the first time since 1998. And he didn’t.
I’ve listened, watched and read a few people since Sunday, making a case for Strachan and why he should have stayed, and the good job he did.
Craig Levein, a former Scotland manager himself, said Strachan had achieved progression. What progression?
We didn’t qualify for the European Championships last year, and finished outside the invites again for Russia next year. No play-off place, no qualification, therefore no progression. It was that easy to measure.
And what about all the players stating Gordon Strachan had done a great job. Those would be some of the same players who Strachan overlooked and didn’t select earlier in the campaign. And anyway, what else is a player going to say about the manager who is playing him, especially when they want to stay in the plans of the next coach and don’t want to appear to be calling the previous gaffer.
For me, Berti Vogts was fantastic. Of course he was, for me, because he was the guy who gave me my chance to play for my country. Why am I ever going to think differently?
Yes, Berti, the butt of so many jokes – but he still took Scotland to the play-offs, and we were 90 minutes away. Okay, Holland away was a result and a night we’d all like to forget. But Berti got us to the play-offs, Gordon did not.
And if you want to be analytical, and breakdown the results that Scotland achieved under Gordon Strachan, beating Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia, Gibraltar and Malta twice each, Lithuania and Qatar, as part of your 48% win record, hardly takes your breath away, does it?
There were no victories against major nations when it mattered. Indeed, Gordon Strachan’s entire tenure could be boiled down to just two results; the first, when we lost 1-0 to Georgia away from home during the Euro 2016 qualifiers. We’d been going well up to that stage. But that loss, on a night when tactically we were inept and we just didn’t compete, scuppered our ambitions about being in France.
This time around, while losing to Slovakia and England three-zip wasn’t nice, only managing a 1-1 draw against Lithuania – that Lithuanian side – coupled with a baffling selection by the manager and a woeful performance, meant we were playing catch-up in those games in Trnava and London. You just can’t afford to drop points like that and get away with it, and ultimately he didn’t.
Where then, do Scotland head now in terms of a new national coach. Let me tell you the mindset the SFA first have to get rid of ahead of this appointment.
Gordon Strachan was not the best man for the Scotland job in the first place.
Are you telling me, that on a planet with seven billion of a population, with all the world-class coaches and managers that are going around, with previous international experience and probably a decent track record, that Gordon Strachan was the best man to lead Scotland?
Well, that’s what some would have you believe.
Scotland need someone with international experience to take over this role. A decent club manager isn’t going to be enough.
Michael O’Neill of Northern Ireland would be a good contender.
But Northern Ireland wouldn’t let him go, and anyway, he is still believing and achieving with them and their World Cup dream is still very much alive.
I just hope we go for the best man for the job, but, you just know, availability, cost and being Scottish will count above everything else – so we could be back to square one in another two years sadly.