Gordon Strachan: a latterday Jack Charlton?
The appointment of Gordon Strachan as manager of Scotland was a surprise in that the Scottish Football Association made what appears to be the right decision.
Usually, the Scottish FA make the wrong decision, as was the case with Craig Levein, the former Dundee United manager, who was great at club level but lacked the sophistication to make the best of what he had at international level. Strachan is different in that he has the personality and profile to make an average Scotland team perform like an above average one, or perhaps even a good one.
Scottish underachievement is so common it is almost inherent. In three World Cup tournaments, from 1974-82, Scotland failed to progress beyond the first round, despite having impressive squads of players. Since 1982, the decline has been slow but significant, and Scotland now resemble the Republic of Ireland in 1986, just before Jack Charlton took over as manager.
Can Strachan become Scotland's Jack Charlton? Auguries are certainly good - and the coincidences too obvious to ignore. Each a great former player, each a club manager with successes and failures, each with a great media profile . . .
Strachan benefits from a popularity among Scotland supporters that will give him a lot of goodwill, certainly in the early months while he is finding his way. He also benefits from low expectations. He will certainly welcome the expanded 2016 European Championship, should he make it that far, which gives Scotland a great chance to quality.
Strachan never fulfilled his potential as a club manager but, a la Charlton, he might find the international arena to his liking.
Aged 55 and apparently excited by his new job, Strachan possesses an attention to detail that will be vital at international level. On the other hand, Strachan might be wise to instil a club mentality, for that would only give Scotland an added sense of identity, especially against superior opposition.
Strachan will also want to revive his own career, having watched it stall in recent years. In some ways, his recent career has been a microcosm for Scotland's recent form.
Gordon Strachan, I would like to introduce you to the Scotland job . . . you belong together.