Our former boss Gordon Strachan is today clearly one Wembley disaster away from being done as the national coach. Most people I’ve spoken to think he’s brought it on himself. This is a sad, sad ending to a story I had high hopes for.
Gordon Strachan was on a hiding to nothing with some people. As an employee of an organisation Celtic fans generally despise and distrust, he was always fighting an uphill battle to getting many of our supporters onside with this particular career move.
In addition, Sevco fans, who hate the SFA almost as much as we do (the ingratitude of them is astounding; but for Regan and his bending of rules they wouldn’t have a club to follow), hated Strachan even more. They were never going to be on-board.
For those at other clubs, he was a messiah though, the People’s Choice, the one they wanted.
I personally thought the appointment was great.
But it didn’t take long for the nonsense to start; almost as soon as he was in the door, the media was on his case over his decision to omit Lee Wallace from his teams. Wallace was, then, playing in the fourth tier of the game; the idea that he was playing at a competitive level which justified international football was ludicrous. Strachan fought his corner for a while but it wasn’t long before he bowed to the pressure and Wallace became the only player ever to represent his country from such a ridiculous position. The Scotland fans made their feelings known, only for the Sevconites to accuse them of booing the player out of hate.
They should know; Rangers fans were once famous for booing Scotland players who hailed from a certain club in the East End of Glasgow.
Sevco fans in the main had already deserted by then. But there were more than enough fans willing to fill seats at Hampden without worrying about that.
Initially, Gordon seemed to have the answers. Scotland’s performances were much improved, and the Tartan Army seemed optimistic and why not? The first thing he did was decide to stop trying to stick square pegs in round holes.
He would, he decided, base the system around the players and not the other way around. Bravo, many of us said.
And it worked, at least initially.
But failure to qualify for the expanded Euros asked hard questions, and this World Cup qualifying campaign has been nine kinds of Hell already. But the biggest problem is one we all remember from his time at Celtic Park, an obstinacy which resulted in baffling decisions, team selections and omissions from the squad, and not based on the logical sort of reasons for dropping Wallace in his early time in charge.
Gordon sometimes seems to make up his mind about players based on nothing he’s seen out on the park. Unfortunately it doesn’t matter what a player does on the pitch if Gordon’s already decided not to feature him. Leigh Griffiths was phenomenal last season and he’s started this one the same way. Strachan’s refusal to make him Scotland’s guaranteed first choice striker looks more like pig-headedness than anything else at this point.
And in that lies an even greater problem; the one constituency in the Scotland support who he could have relied on in tough times like these is turning away, that hard core of Celtic fans who follow the national team. If the decision to field a lower league player because of press pressure was incomprehensible the one not to field Leigh looks simply insulting.
Which isn’t to say the rest of the Tartan Army isn’t equally baffled and annoyed.
They know Griffiths is the best we’ve got, and can’t understand why he doesn’t play. There’s also something unseemly about our current reliance on English Championship players, which compounds the offence of dropping Leigh just to accommodate one of them.
Scotland is a small country, with a painfully small player pool to choose from but I can’t below that we can’t do better than continue relying on a 32 year old Darren Fletcher or keep persevering, against all logic, with the idea that Steven Fletcher is going to do the job for us at the highest level of international football; he has scored nine times in a Scotland shirt, and apart from a goal against Poland his others came against Gibraltar (six of them), Malta and Iceland. His six Gibraltar goals were scored with two hat-tricks, meaning, in fact, that in thirty appearances for the national team he has put the ball in the net in a miserable five games.
You only have to look at Jordan Rhodes, who for whatever reason suffered the same fate as Griffiths, to see that there are players Strachan just doesn’t rate and won’t choose.
This is a sad way for his tenure to be heading. No-one wanted it this way, least of all because there’s no telling what favourite son the SFA will resurrect from the footballing grave to put in Gordon’s place, but it also had a sense of inevitability about it. Gordon seems more suited, these days, to sitting in a studio cracking wise than to trying to figure out what the shape of the national team should look like. He’s been in post since 2013; it’s only been three years but we’re heading backwards at an alarming rate.
Leigh Griffiths is what broke the patience of the fans, but Gordon’s been on the slow procession towards this denouement for a while.