Scotland shortlist fails to inspire

So Billy Davies has ruled himself out of the running for the Scotland manager’s job. Please excuse me for not reaching for the Night Nurse to catch up on any lost sleep.

Davies has proved himself to be astute at taking flagging Championship sides and challenging for promotion but no more than that. I have no doubt he is a great coach but an effective man-manager or statesmanlike figure he certainly is not. At least not yet. My good friend Alan Pattullo of the Scotsman has said it here much better than I can. Some have called this a character assassination but in my view this is a frank assessment of Davies’ career to date. Well done for telling it like it is Alan.

So, according to reports it is now down to Tommy Burns, Graeme Souness, Mark McGhee or George Burley. I have to say that none of them inspire a great deal of confidence in carrying on Walter Smith and Alex McLeish’s good work. To perform against teams like France, Italy and Holland, a coach should really have some experience of taking his side into battle against some top teams – and for me that means having managed a team in European competition or in the English Premiership.

Burley performed miracles with Hearts before he was ousted by ‘hand’s on’ owner Vladimir Romanov and he is currently doing well under difficult circumstances at Southampton. However, he has no European experience and limited time managing in the top-flight.

I also very much like the work McGhee is doing at Motherwell as he has not only got them winning but playing some great attacking football in the process. However, again he has no European experience in management and prior to Motherwell can count Bristol City, Leicester and Wolves as previous clubs.

Souness is a recipe for dressing room disharmony and, although hugely experienced at a number of top-flight clubs, it is almost inevitable that his arrogance and man-management style would disrupt the atmosphere within the squad.

I can’t help but think that Burns’ name is only in the frame because of a lack of other viable candidates and by way of apology for being overlooked when McLeish was appointed. His recent ‘managerial experience’ amounts to being No2 during Berti Vogts’ disastrous reign as Scotland boss and coaching the youth teams at Celtic Park.

I struggle to remember much about his reign as Celtic manager in the 1990’s and although I believe his teams’ were lauded for playing some decent football I think I am right in saying that it was not Celtic’s most successful period in their history.

The SFA seem determined to go down the Scottish route for their next boss and to that end I am surprised that no-one has mentioned the two most successful Scots in coaching positions in the Premiership (excluding, of course, Sir Alex Ferguson).

Steve Clarke at Chelsea and Alex Miller at Liverpool have been involved with their respective clubs through a number of highly successful campaigns. Miller has worked alongside Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez during UEFA Cup and Champions League triumphs while Clarke has gleaned considerable continental knowledge from Jose Mourinho and Claudio Ranieri.

I particularly like the thought of Clarke as boss as there have been some extremely positive noises coming from Stamford Bridge about his involvement in Chelsea’s success. I heard a story from someone (I believe it was Andy Townsend on TalkSport although I could be mistaken) talking about a recent abject first-half showing from Chelsea.

The team apparently performed much better after half-time following a rousing team talk. The man who delivered this team talk: manager Avram Grant? No. Former Ajax manager and Grant’s esteemed assistant Henk Ten Caat? No. It was Steve Clarke.

Having so much respect in a dressing room full of multi-millionaires can surely only stand him in good stead for a top position elsewhere and I see no reason why it couldn’t be Scotland.

Of course, the SFA have had their fingers burnt after their last two managers were poached and they will be in no hurry to lose another one should they prove successful. In that sense, Clarke’s growing reputation and age would probably count against him should the blazers at the SFA decide he was worth a look.

Miller, then, would seem a reasonable name to throw into the hat. He is at an age when the ‘part-time’ nature of international management may be appealing and he may be keen to be his own man again after years of being in the shadow of successful managers. He is also less likely to be poached should he continue the upturn in fortunes for the national team.

People may point to his time at Hibs and Aberdeen where he was not considered to be an exponent of the beautiful game and was happy to win ugly. But at Hibs he duly delivered and won the League Cup in 1991, reached the final in 1993 and guided the Edinburgh-side to third place in the league in 1995.

It is important the SFA exhaust all the possibilities for appointing a Scottish manager but nobody should be appointed simply because they are Scottish and will take the job. Should none of the above candidates prove suitable then we cannot let our experience with Berti put us off the foreign route again.

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5 Responses

  1. Interesting and thought-provoking piece.

    Likewise I am hardly beside myself with excitement at the short-list of potential Scotland managers. When we compare to the past the cupboard appears particularly berift.

    Being a Hibs supporter I just cannot stomach the thought of Alex Miller getting the job. In fairness he is extremely knowledgeable and experienced but I have grave memories of his style of ‘football’ at Easter Road a few years back.

    There is one man who fits the bill in many ways and ticks the majority of boxes, but has fallen completely off the radar these days. That man is George Graham. A Scot with vast experience and know-how. His style is not necessarily that pretty to look at either but I believe he could take the materials available within the present squad and make the most of them.

    Stu

  2. Stu,

    Thanks for your comments.

    George Graham is a name that gets a cursory mention everytime there is a relatively high profile job in the frame but there has to be a reason why he has continually been overlooked for so many posts.

    Maybe it is his style of football – which prompted the famous phrase 1-0 to the Arsenal – or the fact that he has been out of football for quite some considerable time now. However I see no reason why, given the dearth of available talent on the shortlist, that he shouldn’t at least be considered.

    Also, you are not the first person to mention Miller’s uninspiring brand of football. Certainly he and Hibs, the undoubted Newcastle of Scotland when it comes to preferring attacking flair ahead of trophy success, did not seem like the ideal combination.

    I have no wish to see Scotland turn into a route one side but you would have to hope that Miller has learned a bit about attacking football while working with a series of top class managers.

    But Steve Clarke is still the man I would really like to see in the job. Come on Gordon Smith, make it happen!

  3. Thanks for the reply, David.

    I tend to agree that point about Graham being out of the game for so long is the main reason he doesn’t figure. Perhaps his comfortable financial situation decrees that has not taken up many offers that have been received in the past as I can’t imagine that his stock didn’t remain very high for some considerable period.

    I certainly wasn’t a rabid anti-Miller Hibby like many. I can easily recognise the good things he did at Easter road. I believe his coaching ability and knowledge of the game is of a very high calibre whilst one of his great attributes was in spotting talent as he proved time and again. He is a a dour character to b sure though and those that were on the Easter Road terraces for those ten long years of his tenure can remember some terrifying displays of eleven men behind the ball football!

    I like your idea of Steve Clarke. Like you though I see few real alternatives. In a nation that has produced such wonderful managerial talent over many decades that is certainly a sad thing to relate isn’t it?

    Cheers,

    Stu

  4. Thanks for the reply, David.

    I tend to agree that point about Graham being out of the game for so long is the main reason he doesn’t figure. Perhaps his comfortable financial situation decrees that has not taken up many offers that have been received in the past as I can’t imagine that his stock didn’t remain very high for some considerable period.

    I certainly wasn’t a rabid anti-Miller Hibby like many. I can easily recognise the good things he did at Easter road. I believe his coaching ability and knowledge of the game is of a very high calibre whilst one of his great attributes was in spotting talent as he proved time and again. He is a a dour character to b sure though and those that were on the Easter Road terraces for those ten long years of his tenure can remember some terrifying displays of eleven men behind the ball football!

    I like your idea of Steve Clarke. Like you though I see few real alternatives. In a nation that has produced such wonderful managerial talent over many decades that is certainly a sad thing to relate isn’t it?

    Cheers,

    Stu

  5. […] at Chelsea or Alex Miller at Liverpool – both of whom I have touted for the job in a previous post. Then, perhaps a bit of spice should have been added to the mixing pot in the form of a foreign […]

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