Am I shocked? No and yes.
Gordon Strachan has been in charge of Scotland for almost 5 years now. He took the reigns of a dying qualifying campaign under Craig Levein in January 2013.
It was no surprise that Scotland would not make World Cup 2014 despite the late attempt. With those remaining qualifiers Strachan had a test bed for future campaigns though.
Despite being allocated a difficult qualifying group, Scotland’s Euro 2016 campaign began with encouraging results and performances. That would all come undone as the campaign wore on though.
Another tournament missed but Strachan would continue in his role with good backing. So onto the next campaign – the current one.
Having shown positives signs and a clear area of where things went wrong last time around, the World Cup 2018 qualifiers got under way. Scotland started badly, really badly.
Scotland’s Euro qualifying group contained Germany, Poland and Republic of Ireland among othera. A World Cup qualifying group with England, Slovakia and Slovenia to name but a few didn’t seem like a bad draw to be honest.
England are nothing special. They have a talent pool much greater than Scotland’s and it gets them through qualifying, but they are not unbeatable.
Scotland have less players to choose from, but that should make identifying a squad an easier task. There aren’t enough home based players in there for my liking.
Sure, successful players may move south but lets not ignore what’s going on in Scotland. A blend of youth an experience is what is required to keep the squad progressive and in good order.
Fill it with players mainly 30+ and you’re in danger of leaving a huge gap. You need to think about the future in every position.
I’ve always been a fan of Gordon Strachan when most haven’t. I supported him when he became Celtic manager and even defended him to the point I was called a Strachan lover.
His football was turgid to watch, but even still he gave Celtic fans some memorable European and domestic moments. Eventually, he would move on after a downturn in fortunes and fan support.
What he brought to Celtic was not a Celtic-mindedness as we like to call it. What he did have though was the utmost respect for the fans, the club and winning.
Strachan also knew the power of health, fitness and lifestyle. He would bring players of reasonable stature to the club in his time after losing more than a dozen from his predecessor’s era.
Tactically he was fairly rigid and inflexible. Generally he would stick with his plan, his players and sometimes it would even yield a result when it looked dead in the water.
This was largely due to his focus on fitness for the entirety of a match. Right to the death.
As Scotland manager he has certainly shown his stubbornness. He’s not afraid to say so either.
If he has made an unpopular team selection you can bet that he’ll do it over and over again. You can moan all you like, but he isn’t changing it.
The inclusion of John McGinn and Callum McGregor, probably two of Scotland’s most promising players right now, were token. In fact, the withdrawal of Stuart Armstrong and Scott Brown were the sole reason for them getting called up.
There wasn’t a chance in hell that Strachan would have played them. It took him long enough to play Armstrong.
Instead, he went with guys like Darren Fletcher, Barry Bannan, James Morrison, James McArthur. This was a midfield about as exciting as a wet weekend Wemyss Bay.
I don’t profess to follow the careers of these guys. I don’t follow English football despite living here.
Nor am I ageist toward the seniority of the personnel in the team. Experience is necessary.
That doesn’t mean that you leave out promising talent within your own borders. They are the future and with the lack of options compared to some nations you need to blood them sooner.
McGinn and McGregor would have added some energy to that of Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Leigh Griffiths. You need that effervescence in your team.
It was sorely lacking in the midfield and wide areas. Strachan’s stubbornness shone through in this campaign.
I’m not sure he should take on another because he won’t change. Then again who else is there?