After Alex McLeish’s distinctly unsuccessful second spell as Scotland manager, we have a look at who could take up the reins.
Following on from a humiliating start to the Euro 2020 campaign, Scottish Football once again stands at a crossroads. In 2018, after the SFA’s public courtship of Michael O’Neill ended in embarrassment as he signed a new contract with Northern Ireland, the hopes and dreams of The Tartan Army were once again put in the questionable hands of Alex McLeish. It didn’t work out to well. The stuttering qualification for the Nations League play off only papered over the cracks as a disastrous defeat in Kazakhstan and a unconvincing win in San Marino led to McLeish’s exit.
So, who is next? Who will be entrusted to lead this nation of fanatical football fans? Fans so long starved of what they crave more than anything, to be given the chance to compete at the top level once again. Should they go for experience or for a youngster? Martin O’Neill for the Republic of Ireland did a good job for them, but then again Mark Hughes’ appointment as Wales was his first job. And who thought that Chris Coleman would be as successful as he would be? Dave and James give their thoughts on the front runners, and throw in some of their own possibilities.
The big names
David Moyes (current odds: 11/10)
Currently unemployed. Previously managed Preston and Everton with great success, then had a poor 9 months as Sir Alex Ferguson’s successor at Manchester United. Rebuilt his reputation with a successful six months at West Ham after disappointing spells at Real Sociedad and Sunderland.
James: Probably the highest profile Scottish manager, Moyes is in a situation where he can pick his next role. His Everton team was based on organisation, which the Scotland team definitely need, but he did develop players while he was there. I’m sure he doesn’t feel the need to prove himself to anyone, but if he did, the Scotland job could be the one for him.
Dave: David Moyes would bring the structure and put a well drilled team out on the pitch. The biggest problem with Scotland teams in the recent times, isn’t the lack of quality players, while that is obviously a factor, it isn’t even the fact that team just were not prepared mentally to face the team in front of them, Moyes would sort that, it is there just doesn’t seem to be any passion in the jersey any more. Loads of powder puff call offs, gone are the days of players putting them on the line for the shirt. I don’t think Moyes would inspire the lads to turn up, mainly because I think he is waiting on the Celtic job and would only take the National Team as a fall back. Hardly inspiring stuff is it?
Sam Allardyce (current odds: 25/1)
Currently unemployed. Previous England manager with a wealth of Premier League experience at Bolton, Newcastle, Blackburn, Sunderland, West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Everton.
James: This is one name that I’m throwing in to the mix. Allardyce has spent this career organising teams to be hard to beat, which is something that Scotland need after some recent shambolic performances. He will demand a lot from the players, and would bring some needed discipline to a squad of players who should be performing so much better.
Dave: Would make us very hard to beat and is used to working with limited resources. I just don’t see this. Are the Tartan Army ready to fall in behind an English General? Maybe, but just not this one.
Dick Advocaat (current odds 10/1)
Legendary Dutch manager who won 2 league titles with Rangers. Has managed internationally with Netherlands, UAE, South Korea, Belgium, Russia, and Serbia.
James: Will be available at the end of the Dutch season when his short term contract at FC Utrecht finishes, Advocaat would be a great signing if the SFA can get him. He has operated at the top end of European football for most of the last 3 decades, but also showed he can work with… shall we say more limited resources when he kept Sunderland in the Premier League at the end of 2014-15 season. Although he announced his retirement after than season, he returned to Sunderland and has taken jobs at Fenerbahce, Sparta Rotterdam, and Utrecht since, so he could be interested in taking on a new role.
Dave: On paper, this could be a fantastic appointment. He knows Scottish Football intimately following on from his successful spell at Rangers, he has a wealth of International experience. I keep going back to the inspiration element. Would he inspire the players to turn up and give it all? I am not sure. The memory of Betri Vogts is still to raw for me to consider another foreign coach.
Slaven Bilic (current odds 12/1)
Out of work after leaving Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia, Bilic was Croatia manager for 6 years, taking them to the quarter finals of the 2008 and 2012 Euros. Hasn’t quite been able to replicate that success in club football, although took West Ham to 7th and 11th. Has also managed Lokomotiv Moscow and Besiktas with mixed results.
James: Bilic’s time at Croatia is like a blueprint for a young international manager. Whether he wants to go back into the international game is a big question, but if he could be persuaded to give Scotland a chance, there is enough quality that it could be a big success for both sides.
Dave: Personal thing here, but just don’t rate him. There is a fine line between being passionate and being volatile. He is on the wrong side for me.
Graeme Souness (current odds: 33/1)
Has been a media pundit for over a decade at this point, and has denied having any interest in returning to management, but is a legendary name in Scottish football and has managed all over Europe.
James: This would be a huge statement for the SFA to take, and I’m not sure it would be a positive one. He definitely could have a role in the SFA, but surely in 2019, not as manager of the senior men’s football team.
Dave: Been out the game too long to be seriously considered, but I will say this if he was in charge of the current squad I have my doubts that Paterson and Fraser would have been rested for Kazakstan and if someone called off and then played on the following Saturday, we would see them back in the squad for a while. Maybe his, let’s say, aggressive style is a bit outdated in today’s game and the problem with Scottish football go beyond the failure of the National team, the problems are deeper. He could definitely have input in restructuring the SFA, but I think his days of being a manager are gone.
The domestic candidates
Steve Clarke (current odds: 4/1)
Current SFA Manager of the year has worked miracles on a tiny budget over the last 18 months at Kilmarnock. Took West Brom to 8th in the league in his only full season there, before a disappointing year at Reading. Previously has worked as assistant manager at Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham, Liverpool and Aston Villa, under managers such as Ruud Gullit, Jose Mourinho, and Kenny Dalglish. He was also the highest paid assistant manager in the Premier League while at West Ham.
James: Kilmarnock are the success story of the moment in Scottish football, and this opportunity could come at the right time for Clarke. He took Kilmarnock to a record points total last season and has surpassed that this year, and deservedly has won the Scottish Manager of the Year award. He is finally matching the success as a manager he had as an assistant manager, but that breadth of knowledge and experience would be invaluable to the current group of Scottish players.
Dave: I think if you asked any member of The Tartan Army who their ideal candidate would be, then Steve Clark would be pretty near the top of everyone’s list. The job he has done with Kilmarnock in the last season and a half has been nothing short of remarkable. He has worked with some great coaches too, so would bring a wealth of experience. I can’t see him leaving club management.
Derek McInnes (current odds: 8/1)
Aberdeen’s current manager has been the Don’s most successful since Sir Alex Ferguson, regularly being Celtic’s closest challengers at the top of the SPL, and winning the League Cup in 2014. He also took St Johnson into the top flight for the first time in a decade, and saved Bristol City from relegation.
James: The job McInnes has done at Aberdeen over a longer period of time means I would give him the nod over Clarke. And with the re-emergence of Rangers, McInnes might think the time is right to move on, rather than battle the bigger budgets of the Old Firm. McInnes has long been linked with the Rangers job, but Steven Gerrard is unlikely to be in a rush to move along.
Dave: I am a massive fan of McInnes, he is a good coach, his players run through walls for him, he commands loyalty because he gives in back. Rangers and Sunderland have both offered him jobs and he has turned them both down. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind either and that will be crucial for the next Scotland manager as the Tartan Army just can not stomach another SFA yes man. While he has done a great job with Aberdeen, they have never really been able to shake off the fact that they struggle in Glasgow. A minor issue, if he was appointed tomorrow, I would be a happy man.
Neil Lennon (current odds: 25/1)
Recently returned to Celtic to guide them to an eighth league title in a row after Brendon Rodgers moved on to Leicester City. An incredibly successful time as a player at Celtic brought him 5 titles, and followed this up with four years as manager of the Hoops, winning another 3 championships. He kept Bolton in the Championship for one season before leaving mid-way through the next – although the problems at that club have been well documented since then. Lennon got Hibernian promoted back into the Premiership, and then guided Hibs to fourth.
James: If Neil Lennon isn’t appointed permanently as Celtic manager, the SFA could do a lot worse than to approach him. In an ideal world, he would be successful and help heal the divides in Scottish football. I’m a dreamer!
Dave: Ah, Neil Lennon, never liked him as a player, but have loved him since. Passion would not be an issue with this guy. He would be a divisive choice however. He is just one of those characters that you either love him or hate him. Celtic and Hibs fans love him, Rangers and Hearts fans hate him. Would he be able to unite the Tartan Army? If he gets the team playing with passion and start winning, then hell yes he will. What is in his favour is that Celtic quartet; Kieran Tierney, Callum McGregor, James Forrest and Ryan Christie should be the back bone around which the Scotland Team should be built. He knows these players well and we have seen that they play for him. Don’t think it will happen, but would certainly be interesting to watch.
The SFA candidates
Scot Gemmill (current odds 11/4)
Current Scotland under 21 manager who was also under 17’s manager previously.
James: Due to his lack of experienced, he must be regarded as a long shot to be given the job, but so who thought Gareth Southgate could step up from the England under 21 side to be as successful as he has been? He’s slightly inexperienced but not too young, and has done a good job in with the youngsters so far. Maybe be one appointment too soon for him, but if he gets the chance as interim manager for the upcoming qualifiers and does well… who knows?
Dave: The worry here is that the SFA are so incompetent they may look across the border and look at the success that England have had with promoting Gareth Southgate from the U21s and think it is worth a go. Logic is sound, however Scott Gemmill is to Gareth Southgate is what Mark Burchill was to Michael Owen. This would be an unmitigated disaster on every level.
Malky Mackay (current odds: 20/1)
The Scottish FA’s Performance Director took Cardiff to the Premier League before falling out with owner Vincent Tan. Two underwhelming spells at Watford and Wigan are the other jobs on his CV.
James: Could be a candidate if others are unavailable, but I can’t see him as a top of anyone’s list. Although he could have a chance to stake a claim (if he even wants the job) if Gemmill and him are appointed as interim managers for the June Qualifiers against Cyprus and Belgium.
Dave: A massive no for me. A bang average player and coach. Left Cardiff under a cloud. A hundred times no.
The English league candidates
Jack Ross (current odds 25/1)
Current Sunderland manager took St Mirren to the Scottish Championship title in 2018.
James: Less than 4 full seasons as a manager means that this opportunity may come too early for him, but the job he has done rebuilding at Sunderland means he should be in the running if Scotland want to go for a young manager.
Dave: Think the job has come to early for this guy, but if he keeps going the way he is going, then he has a bright future and the top job is a possibility.
Alex Neil (current odds 25/1)
Currently Preston manager, Neil got Hamilton promoted to the Premiership and Norwich up to the Premier League through the play-offs.
James: Neil was a manager on the up after taking Norwich into the Premier League, but it may have been a season too early for the Canaries as they came straight back down and were struggling in the Championship when he left. He’s doing a good job at Preston, and at 38 he still has a long career ahead of him.
Dave: A special manager. Worked miracles at Hamilton Accies (I will maybe write about this in more details down the line) and when he went to Norwich and didn’t look out of place in the Premier League. Like Ross, he is too young at the moment and has much more to do in club football.
So there you have it! Our run down of the potential next Scotland manager. Agree? Disagree? Let us know
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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