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McInnes: Next Scotland manager inherits a squad heading in the right direction

Gordon Strachan has left Scotland with immediate effect.
Gordon Strachan has left Scotland with immediate effect.

Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes believes whoever succeeds Gordon Strachan will inherit a squad capable of restoring the national team’s reputation.

The uncertainty over Strachan’s future ended yesterday with the Scottish FA’s announcement that the 60-year-old and his assistant Mark McGhee had departed with immediate effect.

The former Celtic and Southampton manager came under major scrutiny after the national team made a slow start to the World Cup qualifying campaign with only four points from their opening four fixtures.

But the second half of the campaign was far more impressive with Strachan’s side almost reaching the play-offs after a six-match unbeaten run.

A victory in Slovenia on Sunday would have earned the national team a place in next month’s World Cup play-offs but the dream of a place at next summer’s showpiece in Russia ended with a 2-2 draw in Ljubljana.

However Dons manager McInnes, touted as one of the contenders to succeed Strachan, believes the former Aberdeen player leaves behind a squad that will head into the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with confidence.

He said: “If you look at the last six results in isolation, although you can’t just look at that, you would be really pleased not only with the performances but also the return of points.

“It has been more than decent and there has been plenty of encouragement.

“When we got the last-minute winner against Slovakia you started to think we were peaking at the right time going to get the job done, when it had looked like a hopeless cause to many just a few games into the campaign.

“It is tough because Gordon was a small margin away from being a hero and really turning things around. Not many people would have given him much hope after the opening games.

“It is difficult but there is a lot of encouragement.”

McInnes believes the talented crop of young Scotland internationals, such as Kieran Tierney, Andy Robertson and John McGinn, is another reason to feel positive about the future.

He said: “There are a lot of good, young Scottish players who are getting better and they still have the best years of their careers ahead of them.

“I think there has been a lot more investment and focus at youth level over the past few years and in time that can only benefit the national manager and the national team.

“That might be a wee while away but for the short to medium term for the national team I still think there is a lot of encouragement there.

“We were close to qualifying and there has been a lot of doom and gloom and a lot of criticism that comes from a failed campaign and ultimately that is what it is.

“I do think the last half-a-dozen results have been far more like it and gives us a bit more optimism.”

McInnes believes Strachan deserves praise for the way he created a club mentality at the national team that took the national team to within one goal of the World Cup play-offs.

He added: “I like Gordon Strachan. It was clear the players like him and that is something you can never aim at the squad.

“We’ve got players turning up and even the ones who haven’t played regularly look as if they have the bit between the teeth to be part of the squad and that is down to the manager, there is no doubt about that.

“That is a huge credit to him and his staff and how they work.”

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