EXCUSE the irreverence, but when Craig Levein was manager of Scotland, I used to call his team the Raggedy Arsed Rovers.
Cruel? Cutting? Maybe. But, unless you’re cursed with memory black-outs, you’ll agree that there wasn’t a whole lot going for them.
But it pleases me no end to report the demise of Raggedly Arsed Rovers. They’re under the new management of Gordon Strachan and there’s a refreshing new philosophy about them these days.
For instance, they’ve lost the fear factor: the players are now at liberty to come over the halfway line and even penetrate their opponents’ penalty box. They’re even encouraged to do so. For this we must applaud wee Gordon.
Hey, I could never be accused of standing at the front of the queue of his official fan club. I said in a previous blog that sometimes he was too glib and smart for his own benefit.
But credit must be given when it’s due. The 2-1 defeat against Germany offered encouragement for the future. Lots of it- certainly from the vantage point of this old armchair.
Being honest, if Strachan had four or five more decent players, it would be a lot better for him. The two central defenders – Grant Hanley and Russell Martin – are just not good enough for this level in my opinion. They’re pretty ordinary and I just don’t fancy them at all.
The full-backs, Alan Hutton and Steven Whittaker? Well, they are just okay. But I’m more than happy about the composition of the rest of the side. Listen, we were better organised than I’ve seen for a long time. Strachan got decent performances out of the vast majority of players,
The reality, though, is that we’ve got to hold ourselves in check a wee bit. We can take a lot from this game, but remember we got nothing out of it. It’s only the beginning of something. And, really, it’s far too early to judge Strachan.
Be that as it may, I’ve been asked by my website masters what happens if Scotland keep doing well and Strachan gets an offer to return to club management. It’s happened before – to both Walter Smith and Alex McLeish, who went to Rangers and Birmingham respectively.
Well, let’s sort this one out right away. If someone rang Strachan’s chimes – say an English Premier Division club – he’d take it. I’m almost positive he would. But I hasten to add I don’t think this will happen.
Ambitious managers give off signs that are unmistakeable. So, put it this way: I don’t think that Strachan is actively pursuing something of this nature. I think he’ll see this job through. I’m sure he would like to have a good campaign and to go to the Euro Championships with Scotland.
This is football management we’re talking about, of course, and therefore anything can happen. If he hasn’t won a game from the next three fixtures – Georgia (October 11: home), Poland (October 14: away) and Republic of Ireland (November 14: home), it might not even be his decision to stay on as manager.
But I can’t really see that happening. The point is I just feel that Strachan is a couple of steps further down the road than both Smith and McLeish. I think he’s reached a point in life where being an international manager suits him fine.
He’s always been a great advocate of family life and of taking his wife with him on his travels. Taking her, let’s say, to watch Brechin and Forfar on a wet Tuesday night. – by God, he knows how to show a woman a good time!
Seriously, the fact that they live down in England means that it’s just a wee busman’s holiday to be heading back up here every so often. Looking at him now, I get the feeling that he’s quite happy to dip his toe in the waters of relaxation in the elongated times between games.
Managing Celtic or Rangers or a big English club means you’re at the coal face every day and there’s rarely a moment you can rest your pick.
Nowadays, Gordon can head off down the road for a few weeks, do a bit of gardening and take the wife out to lunch. I get the feeling that this might be suiting him at the moment.
I said earlier that it’s still too early to judge him, but, look, if you put me against a wall and ask me to be Nostradamus, I’d say this: he has more than a sporting chance of taking us to those Euro Championships. But we must keep up that level of intensity shown against the Germans, and start accumulating points. I believe there’s enough quality around him to do that.
If I’m reading the situation correctly, he’s just about ready to be doing this job now. Listen, I don’t think you ever take this Scotland post to demonstrate career success. Yes, there have been people who have done it, but unfortunately there have been more people who haven’t.
So, to my mind, Strachan has not taken up with Scotland and used them for bigger and better things. Remember, it always helps that when you’re doing a job, you don’t have one eye looking over your shoulder for something else.
So, I believe he’ll be totally committed, because that’s the type of wee guy he is, His focus seems to be completely on what he’s doing for Scotland now. And that, my friends, means no more Raggedy Arsed Rovers!