Belfast Telegraph

Strachan's exit puts O'Neill in running to land Scotland role

 

By Andy Newport

Gordon Strachan has left his role as Scotland manager after the Scottish Football Association decided "fresh impetus" was required to end a 20-year absence from the big stage.

The governing body announced both parties had decided change was needed, following a board meeting in the wake of Scotland's failure to make the World Cup play-offs.

Thoughts will immediately turn to a successor, with former Everton, Manchester United and Sunderland boss David Moyes favourite with several bookmakers.

Malky Mackay, the SFA's performance director, has also been quoted along with Paul Lambert, Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes and former Scotland boss Alex McLeish, while there have been calls for the governing body to make a bold bid for Northern Ireland's Michael O'Neill.

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers feels Scotland need to find a way to harness their technical stars.

Strachan bemoaned the country's genetic make-up after two set-piece goals cost them a place in the World Cup play-offs following a 2-2 draw in Slovenia on Sunday. He claimed Scotland had a problem physically and he had to pick a team to combat their set-piece strengths.

Rodgers said: "I can see where Gordon is coming from. If you compare it, of course you have other nations that are inherently built in a different way.

"If I look at my own Swansea team when we played in the Premier League, we had one player over 6ft 3in and the rest were highly gifted technical players. We always tried to find a way, there are moments when you are vulnerable like set-pieces, to try and cope with that.

"In my time up here, I have seen a lot of very talented Scottish players. I think it is finding a way for them to fit into a systematic approach that allows them to play a technical game and then they use their strengths."

Motherwell manager Stephen Robinson was part of the Northern Ireland management staff at Euro 2016 and he feels his country have benefited from their work on set-pieces.

Robinson said: "Up until recent years - when we have had Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart and some big, big boys - we did struggle physically at times and the under-age groups struggle physically at times. But we have got a crop of players now, we are a big, physical imposing side.

"I think we scored something like 70 per cent of our goals from set-plays. We had big, imposing figures and players that delivered the ball with pinpoint accuracy, like Chris Brunt."

Another Ulsterman, Neil Lennon, felt Strachan had a point.

The Hibernian head coach said: "He's talking more about the physicality and athleticism of players, which has been a bug bear for people in the game here for a while. Scotland still don't really have a dominant centre-half, a (Virgil) van Dijk-type, or up front a (Gareth) Bale."

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