The search for another Scotland manager looks set to get under way as Alex McLeish’s second spell in charge nears its end.
The Gothenburg Great has come under pressure following the national team’s unimpressive start to the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 3-0 defeat by Kazakhstan followed by an unconvincing 2-0 win in San Marino.
League Managers Association chief executive Richard Bevan has dismissed reports that the 60-year-old is struggling with the stress of trying to lead the national team to a major finals.
But the Scottish FA are understood to be contemplating a change with McLeish having won only five of his 12 games in charge since replacing Gordon Strachan.
Craig Brown was the last manager to savour the feeling of leading the country to the finals of a major tournament – the World Cup in France 21 years ago.
Brown is as frustrated and disappointed as any member of the Tartan Army that his record still stands but he fears it will not be changing anytime soon.
Brown said: “I’ll be very disappointed if Alex goes. He has a good managerial record, won leagues in Scotland the League Cup with Birmingham City. His first spell in charge was a huge success and he has taken the country to the play-offs of the Nations League. Chief executive Ian Maxwell has a big job on his hands.
“I don’t know him well but I know the chief executive at the SFA is the one who is at the heart of all the big decisions which are made and people will be looking to him to find a solution. It won’t be easy. The level of player at our disposal is the problem. We have very good coaches but the structured player development is not at the level it was.
“I don’t think anyone would disagree with that statement but why that is the case is the difficult question to answer.
“If I go back a couple of decades we had an influx of foreign players into our game. We’ve had some wonderful players such as Henrik Larsson, Paul Gascoigne and Brian Laudrup but we’ve also had a lot of cheaper imports who have been of a lesser standard who have hindered the development of our own players at first-team level.
“Rangers and Celtic have both reached European finals in the last 20 years but did their progress help the national team? I’m not so sure.
“Their role is to look after themselves, as it should be, but the knock-on effect of the reduced number of Scottish players at first-team level at our leading clubs has had an impact on the national team.”
Brown has watched as one man after another has revised his squad, cast the net far and wide and searched for promising youngsters to fill the shoes of those who came before them, but to no avail.
Berti Vogts, Walter Smith, George Burley, Craig Levein, Gordon Strachan and McLeish have tried everything to put a team together capable of qualifying. But Brown is convinced the last two decades have proved his belief there is no substitute for experience.
He said: “One of the criticisms I faced as national team manager was that I fielded an older team and didn’t give young players a chance. My response is that successful international teams are full of experienced players and you don’t win international matches with young laddies.
“The Germany team which won Euro 96 was the oldest team in the tournament. The France team at the World Cup in 1998 was the oldest team in the tournament.I was told my team was too old in 1996 and 1998. I’d argue they were tried and tested, trusted. We had a system, 3-5-2, and everyone knew their job in the team.
“Look at Belgium. They have Eden Hazard, 28, Vincent Kompany, 32, and Marouane Fellaini, 31. They are experienced campaigners.”
The appalling 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan in the opening game of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign has put Scotland up against it already but former manager Brown remains optimistic and believes there are good players available for any aspiring national team manager – just not enough.
Brown said: “We have exceptional young players such as Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney, Ryan Christie and Ryan Fraser, but none of them were available in Kazakhstan and we also lack good experienced, seasoned players in our squad.
“Look at the players who we didn’t have in Kazakhstan – Allan McGregor and Craig Gordon, Robertson, Tierney, Christophe Berra, Charlie Mulgrew and Callum Paterson, Robert Snodgrass, Barry Bannan, Christie and Fraser. Steven Naismith, Steven Fletcher and Leigh Griffiths. Those players would make up a team which would have beaten the Scottish side which lost in Kazakhstan.
“I saw every game Ryan Christie and James Maddison played for Aberdeen. Maddison moved for £22million to Leicester and is in the England squad now yet Christie was a far more influential player in his time at the club.
“We fall into the trap of believing we are better than we are and that the opposition is poorer than we think and we fall back on the Fifa rankings to make that argument. Kazakhstan is great example of that.
“The media focuses on a world ranking and judges a country straight away but people forget both Celtic and Aberdeen, our two best teams, went to Kazakhstan and lost to club teams there. International sides are better than club sides.”