There is quite a bit of speculation out there about who the next Scotland football manager will be, and no doubt that will increase as the SFA continue their attempt to get someone in place by February, when the next European Championships qualifying groups are drawn.
First up, though, it’s a shame that George Burley’s performance warranted his departure. I was hugely keen on him getting the job as his Hearts tenure suggested he’d have Scotland playing attractive, positive and successful football. Quite why this never materialised, I have no idea, and it is sad that he has had to move on (though it was the right move).
Who next? There are a number of names being touted around, and one big question is whether Scotland should go for a foreign coach.
Dan Petrescu and Csaba Laszlo, among others such as Nevio Scala, have thrown their names into the hat, which are both interesting names. Petrescu has little knowledge or experience of Scottish football, and I am not sure if he would be suitable on that basis; while Laszlo, despite heroically surviving a season at Tynecastle, probably hasn’t convinced enough people of his own merits, other than his ability to talk extensively at press conferences.
Not that I oppose any foreign appointment (Big Phil or Guus Hiddink are of course welcome to the job), but there are more realistic options within Scotland.
People have touted Walter Smith as one option, but the way he dumped the job last time to run back to Rangers won’t have endeared him to the fans, nor crucially has he made himself available. Craig Levein seems to be one of the main favourites, although I’d oppose him for two main reasons – firstly, his current employers Dundee Utd would demand a massive compensation deal, the SFA can ill-afford; and secondly, he’s an excellent manager doing a great job at the moment in challenging the Old Firm hegemony, and the moment he leaves, Old Firm fans will be celebrating. The same would go for other talented managers in Scotland right now like Mark MacGhee and John Hughes.
In an ideal world, we’d go for a Scot like Gordon Strachan, Alex Ferguson or David Moyes – they would be passionate about Scotland but would back that up with top-class management skills and European contacts and experience. Strachan would have been great, but he’s not long into a new job.
One suggestion has been that a big name like those currently plying trades in England might accept the job part-time. This has been criticised as being down-grading the job and not giving it the status it warranted. But as I read in an article recently somewhere (I can’t remember where now), Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown were both part-time managers – working also in the role of SFA technical director – which is something I never knew. Apparently, Berti Vogts said he’d take the job only on a full-time basis hence the recent precedent. So if Roxburgh and Brown can take us to World Cups as part-timers, so could someone else. But I do feel the chances of tempting someone like Ferguson or Moyes away from their clubs even part-time, or persuading their boards to let them go, would be a tough task, and the wage demands would be massive.
Therefore, that leaves me to tout my preferred choice – former Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood. All the above shouldn’t suggest I am simply favouring him by a process of elimination; I actually believe he stands strong as a candidate on his own merit. For instance:
- He’s taken Aberdeen into Europe in three out of his five seasons there.
- He has strong international connections, particularly with the Netherlands.
- He has helped clubs punch significantly above their weight – Aberdeen and Dunfermline peaked under his management. This chimes perfectly with the demands of the Scotland job, which is to do good things with scant resource.
- He’s out of work and therefore there would be no compensation required.
- He’s interested, and instantly available.
That’s my hope; though my money would actually be on Craig Levein being tempted away. The national team’s gain; but a loss to the competitiveness of the SPL and to the coffers of the SFA.
But we shall see…