Country comes first

Gordon Strachan insists he would never put his own interests before those of Scotland and the Tartan Army.

The national team boss went through a period of soul-searching after his side suffered a damaging defeat to Slovakia last month.

The result means the Scots’ hopes of reaching the 2018 World Cup are already hanging by a thread just three games into the campaign after picking up four points from the nine available.

But after holding talks with Hampden chiefs, the former Celtic boss decided to stay on and lead the country out at Wembley for next week’s clash with England.

Strachan, however, stressed his only concern when deciding to remain in his post was whether or not he felt he could end Scotland’s 18-year wait to appear at a major tournament.

The manager, who appeared somewhat prickly when asked about how he had come to the decision to stay on, said: “It’s not really about me. If you honestly think that from that moment after the defeat against Slovakia I was thinking about myself then you really don’t know me.

“All I was thinking was how do I get this group of people – the fans, the players, the backroom staff – into a major tournament?

“I’m 59 years old. Do you really think I was thinking about myself at that point?

“I want to give these people, the supporters especially, the chance to get to a top, top tournament.

“The disappointment was huge after that defeat. But from then the thought was this is a chance to experience something great.”

Strachan was in better mood as he laughed off the reporting of his recent comments about Leigh Griffiths.

The manager was quoted by several Sunday newspapers last month explaining that his need to balance physicality with skill in the international arena was one of the reasons why the Celtic striker had struggled to break into the Scotland line-up.

Those comments were later picked up by other outlets and reported as though Strachan had suggested Griffiths – who stands 5ft 8ins tall – was too short to play for his country.

But Strachan – who at just 5ft 6ins was capped 50 times as a player – is confident Griffiths understands the point he was trying to make.

“It was funny when Griff called himself Shorty (on Twitter),” said the manager. “I think that’s brilliant. Anything that makes people laugh I think is tremendous.

“But can I really be involved in heightism? Let’s be fair.

“I think I’ve actually left out a couple of strikers who are actually taller than Griff. So they will be disappointed and probably measuring themselves.

“But I’d like to thank the Sunday newspapers for explaining it perfectly. Everybody who has a football mind and is fair and unbiased understood what I was saying.”

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