I clearly remember the time I met the Scottish national team. It was back in 2013 in Novi Sad.
The Scots arrived in Serbia for a 2014 World Cup qualifier which was nearly not held due to unfavourable weather conditions and unexpected snowfall which took the match organisers by surprise.
Scottish fans decided to lend a hand and help clear the pitch, shovelling their way through the snow alongside stewards and match officials in a detail that still very much remains stuck as one of the fondest ones in my memory.
In the end, the match was played and Serbia ended up winning it 2-0 thanks to a brace from Filip Djuricic.
With his face bleak as the game itself, Gordon Strachan addressed the media with utter respect and dignity even though this defeat came as a heavy blow to his side who at the time had two points from six games.
Watching him sit in the team bus after the game with his shoulders down and his gaze rested up in the distance made me feel sorry for a man, a gentleman, a professional who did all he could to change the poor fortunes of his team.
Different scenario, same problems.
Three years later and after almost four years at Scotland’s helm, the same look was seen on Strachan’s face after what ended up being a heavy defeat to fierce neighbouring rivals England. Although the circumstances were now much different.
Strachan’s side look laboured and at time completely clueless, albeit with fine patches which could and should have gotten them a much needed goal. Ultimately, it is not the impression that stays on but the result, and 3 goals conceded speak volumes.
Same questions are being asked once more – should Scotland start seeking for better leadership elsewhere and part ways with the experienced tactician?
According to various reports the Scottish FA gave themselves 48 hours to reach their verdict on whether to stick with the man or not.
Consistent and persistent failure to mount the challenge of reaching an international tournament over the last couple of years has accumulated plenty of frustration towards one man who is – or was – doing his best to get results fans will find worthy.
With odds firmly stacked against him Gordon Strachan has Alex McLeish as the first in line to succeed at 4/1 betting odds. Limited choice of managers deemed fit for the role includes Sunderland manager David Moyes, Derek Mcinnes and Martin O’Neill, which at the same time gives some validity to Strachan’s chances of remaining at the helm.
Various pundits are rallying around Gordon Strachan believing he is the right man for the job and that he should be given an additional stretch.
With all of the aforementioned another question, however, lingers in the shadow – should Gordon Strachan carry all the weight of his team’s poor results?
The answer is simple, Strachan appears to be a victim of his own poor choices during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Those in favour of Strachan staying are claiming that the man is getting the best out of the limited talents he has at disposal. Defending his choices in the squad, Strachan explained his team are not Barcelona with a clearly visible game-plan and a system to follow. But, that is supposed to be his job in the first place – to create one.
Personally, I had been impressed with Strachan’s attitude three years ago, but he appears to be digging a hole for himself right now.
With questionable choices prior to the trip to Wembley, Strachan made himself an alibi by involving Barcelona in his media talk when he was supposed to defend his squad selection instead.
Ross McCormack, Matt Phillips and frustrated Charlie Adam might not be world’s top talents but their experience and quality could have added another dimension to Scotland’s play against England should Strachan have not excluded them.
The note of pragmatism I caught on in 2013 in Novi Sad appears to have vanished.
What Scotland should have done against England is tighten up defensively, playing on the counters in not that beautiful of styles, but in what would have been an effective one against talent-laden England squad. What Scotland got was abysmal defending, having allowed England to score from only chances they created.
The competitive football year is over for Scotland, as pretty much for all other nations, and the Scottish FA are expected to put good use to four months until next real action. If they are to make any changes to the helm of the national team, now would be the best time to do so.
With the prospect of several friendlies which will have little to none commercial effect, the FA should – if Strachan is doomed – try to bring a fresh name that would bring fans back to their happy place and serve as a good morale boost.
If, on the other hand, Strachan survives – which I find highly unlikely at the moment – the 59-year-old should do his utmost to make sincere amends with the fans, the public and most importantly with the ‘forgotten’ players who can be of great help in the second part of the qualifiers.
After six years in charge he owes Scotland at least that much.