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Gordon is still the man

By March 27, 2017No Comments

I’ve never been so happy for an International manager than I was on Wednesday night for Gordon Strachan and the Scotland players after their 1-0 win over Slovenia.

A moment to celebrate in the same old movie where we all know the ending.

The end is indeed coming for Gordon Strachan, but don’t blame him for all our woes at International level.

We are still not good enough and we just don’t have the players to guide us to Russia in 2018.

Gordon Strachan once said to me that success or failure is such a fine line that one player can make a difference to whether you are perceived as a managerial genius or a dud.

The case in question was Romelu Lukaku at West Brom. In season 2012-13. The Belgian, striker, on loan from Chelsea, scored 17 goals for the Baggies in a campaign that ended with West Brom finishing eighth in the Premier league in England, their best finish since 1981.

At that point, Clarke was being touted for some of the biggest jobs in the country.

Fast forward to the start of the new season 2013-14 with Lukaku now gone and on loan to Everton from Chelsea.

The midlands club were now struggling to score goals and before Christmas, Clark was on gardening leave and soon out of a job at West Brom.

Had he suddenly become a bad manager?

The same can be said of Strachan in his current plight with Scotland.

The former successful Celtic boss is divisive, people like his patter when his team are winning and jump on his head as a disrespectful manager when he’s not winning.

He’s made mistakes along the way and for some been too cautious in his approach to key games, regardless of the players he has at his disposal.

The most damning case against Strachan came in his first attempt to get us to a major finals. Scotland needed to win away to Georgia and the clamour was for Celtic’s goal-machine Leigh Griffiths to start at the expense of the goal-shy Steven Fletcher. The Sunderland man got the nod.

On that particular September night in 2015, we failed to register a single shot on target and lost 1-0. It was the point where all our hopes of Euro 2016 qualification ended. In another one of those must win games, we failed.

Defeat to Germany, an agonising draw with Poland and a meaningless thrashing of Gibraltar finished our campaign off.

Following these games, our entire nation went into meltdown once more and started scatter-gunning every possible reason for our failure to qualify for a major tournament since 1998.

We usually introduce “Think-tank’ documents part 1 and part 2, to pin-point the problem at considerable cost to the SFA coffers.

There are opinions ranging from the loss of ‘tanner ba’ players, the emergence of lap-tops, games consoles, the disintegration of schools football, the Conservative government policies of the 1980’s, the greed of the big clubs in Scotland, happy to invest in foreign imports rather than develop home-grown players, all the way through to lack of facilities for the kids.

All of them worthy of our consideration, but still we can’t qualify while discussing these points, meanwhile we embark on missions to embrace the French, Dutch and German ethos of how to play winning football.

It is now 2017 and sadly another case of deja-vu.

Scotland against Slovenia on Wednesday was another one of those must win games. Griffiths is still the man we want to start at the expense of Steven Fletcher and this time the Tartan army get their wish. The other fall guy is much maligned Chris Martin of Fulham, relegated to the bench.

Griffiths can’t score either and we are 90 seconds away from ‘Think-tank 3’ or ‘Project Brave’ being called for at the end of the match.

Thankfully, despite welcoming boos and mounting criticism, Chris Martin finds the net to give us victory and a feint hope of qualification.

Are we going to qualify? No.

The odds are stacked against us. We have seven points from five games and with five games remaining, we probably need a minimum of thirteen points from these game to have an outside chance of a second place play-off.

In our next game, we have to beat England at Hampden to fire the nation up to believe the impossible dream is possible. I can’t see it happening.

In this campaign, we’ve replaced the poor result with Georgia with a draw against Lithuania in a game we had to win and failed to.

We are asking the same strikers who couldn’t get the goals in the last campaign to somehow give us a different outcome in this one.

If only Oliver Burke was a goal-scoring machine, if only Moussa Dembelé’s granny was Scottish. If only we had a Romelu Lukaku.

I have backed Gordon Strachan as Scotland manager because I think he is the best man available to get the best out of the players he has available.

I still think he is the right man, but I don’t think he will succeed.

There’s a fine line between success and failure, Gordon Strachan will end up on the wrong side of that line shortly, but it won’t be because he is a bad manager.