Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football

Levein calls for patience as pressure mounts on Scotland boss McLeish

It was reported on Monday that McLeish was about to be sacked.

Alex McLeish is under continuing pressure (Simon Cooper/PA)
Alex McLeish is under continuing pressure (Simon Cooper/PA)

Craig Levein claims Scotland have no choice but to be patient after describing the pressure mounting on Alex McLeish as “nonsense”.

Some newspaper reports claimed on Monday morning that McLeish was set to be sacked imminently but Scottish Football Association sources stated there were no plans for talks.

It is understood SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell and McLeish spoke on the phone on Wednesday night.

Watch the goals from our 2-0 UEFA EURO 2020 qualifier win over San Marino. Kenny McLean and Johnny Russell scored their first goals for Scotland to seal the win.

Posted by Scotland National Team on Monday, March 25, 2019

McLeish came under fire following last week’s 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan in Scotland’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier, and the subsequent 2-0 victory in San Marino did little to quell the criticism.

Levein has been in McLeish’s shoes during his three-year spell in charge of the national team and observed the recent debate with relief.

“It just makes me think, ‘thank God I’m not doing that any more’,” said Levein, who was castigated for playing a 4-6-0 formation in a 1-0 defeat in Prague in 2010.

“It’s nonsense, the whole thing. We are one play-off away from qualifying because of the work that was done in the Nations League, and I think we just need to calm down a little bit.

bpanews_b42a5956-9847-47c4-933f-e3993b65d5c2_embedded241477222
Hearts boss Craig Levein has called for perspective from Scotland fans (Jane Barlow/PA)

“He had a lot of injuries as well, particularly in the first match. It just seems that everybody is in such a hurry to hand out stick, and it doesn’t help the manager, it doesn’t help the players.

“It’s not been instant now for nearly 20 years. There are deeper-lying issues and I think we need just to take a step back. Things were put in place a number of years ago to try and improve the quality of young players, and I think we just need to have a little bit of patience.

“I know we are not going to have patience, but that’s what will have to happen. We have not got any choice.”

Levein’s successor, Gordon Strachan, this week blamed “selfish” clubs for failing to produce talented young players and claimed there was a denial and delusion about the process.

bpanews_b42a5956-9847-47c4-933f-e3993b65d5c2_embedded233244583
Gordon Strachan claims the conduct of clubs has affected the national team (Adam Davy/PA)

But Levein, who has been Hearts director of football since 2014, believes there are good youngsters emerging.

“I think there are,” he said. “I mean Gordon didn’t say that when he was Celtic manager, did he?

“It’s easy when you are talking about something that doesn’t affect you.

“I would agree that the quality of player isn’t there to compete regularly at the top level but I think things are improving. And I watch a lot of youth games. Every weekend I am watching games and I’m seeing a lot of really talented young players. Clubs are doing their best.

“The biggest problem for me sometimes is when to introduce the players to the first team.

“There are a number of teams who regularly produce players for the national team, and I think that will continue. It’s just about improving the quality of that player. It doesn’t happen overnight.”

Levein believes smaller nations are now becoming more difficult to beat with better coaching.

He added: “The more exceptional players you have the better chance you’ve got of beating the minnows by four or five or six. We have not got that many exceptional players. We need two or three playing at a really, really high level every week who can score and create chances.

“Because that’s the way international football is going, teams are sitting in.

“Some of them don’t even play with strikers anymore. Unbelievable.”

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph