Talking Sport … with Jim Tait
A very mixed reaction has greeted the exit of Scottish international football manager Gordon Strachan, said to have parted company with his employers after a mutual agreement.
There is no doubt that Strachan had several good qualities. He had been a top player himself; he was popular with his players, if his unstinting loyalty sometimes bordered on the frustrating; and he appears to have been well accepted by a large swathe of supporters.
His recent record was also impressive. He can boast an unbeaten record in the last seven matches, six of them competitive, and a rise from 43rd to 29th in the latest Fifa rankings.
Personally I would have stuck with Strachan, at least for the European Championship qualifying campaign, but I understand those who feel his tenture has run its course. There were too many inconsistencies over selection policy, a preference for English-based players over their Scottish counterparts and an often insolent attitude to questions from reporters who were just doing their job, while his most recent excuse over genetic make-up was nothing short of embarrassing.
In the last outing against Slovenia, a must-win match in order to make it to the World Cup play-offs, Strachan got it wrong.
Barry Bannan is a good enough player in the English Championship, but he provides little adventure in an attacking sense. Fielding him alongside Darren Fletcher and James McArthur, who have similar attributes, was a negative move and a mistake most have identified.
There is absolutely no doubt that Scotland missed the injured Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong, but the inclusion of the fast-improving John McGinn of Hibs would surely have been a better option.
Persisting with wide player Matt Phillips of West Brom was another failure. While he did really well against Lithuania, he offered nothing in the subsequent victories over Malta and Slovakia. Strachan should have noticed that.
Kieran Tierney is a fantastic player, possibly with the most potential of anyone in the current squad, but I’m not sure there is room for him and Andrew Robertson in the same team. In the last couple of games he looked every bit like a left back playing on the wrong side.
It would be a terrible shame to have to sacrifice Robertson, but in the interests of getting the formation right it is a step that whoever replaces Strachan may have to take.
Several names appear to be in the frame for the job, although the likes of Sam Allardyce and David Moyes have all but ruled themselves out by suggesting that the time is not right.
Former boss Alex McLeish has expressed an interest and is viewed as favourite, while Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill and Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes have also been mentioned. Caretaker Malky McKay may well be in the running depending on what happens in the next month’s friendly against Holland, such is the fickleness of the SFA.
I certainly would not welcome a foreign appointment, as I still believe strongly that a manager, like the players he works with, should come from the country they represent.
Whoever the new manager is he will face other crucial decisions. A big influence could be whether Brown feels he has enough in the tank for another campaign or decides to step down from international football for the second time. I sincerely hope it is the former.
There is also the continuing situation with the central defensive berths. Charlie Mulgrew and Christophe Berra are probably over the hill and apart from shifting Tierney into another new position the options are limited by what is available.
With the Dutch friendly looming maybe the time has come for experimenting. By that I don’t mean wholesale changes but the introduction of some more youth.
Strachan showed no degree of interest in his former club while in charge. But with the Holland game being played at Pittodrie might there just be a glimmer of hope for the likes of Scott McKenna or Ryan Christie?
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While it is good that so many Pro 14 rugby matches are now available to watch on television, it remains a constant annoyance that a substantial number are only broadcast on BBC Alba.
While some of the programmes available on the channel can be a delight, particularly the music coverage and well-made documentaries, I am not convinced that it is the place for rugby. The commentator may be a Gaelic speaker, but he has to immediately switch to English when discussing the game with his summariser.
I understand that it is considered important to retain the Gaelic language in Scotland, but the fact remains that only 57,000 people, or just over one per cent of the country’s population, actually speak it. The portion of that with enough interest in rugby to take in live matches is, I would imagine, tiny.
This is in stark contrast with Wales where around 20 per cent of people are able to understand the Welsh language. And a substantial number are avid followers of the oval-ball game which still retains preference over football in the valleys.
There is of course the red-button choice which can usually switch you to an English version but that can be slow and problematic.
A few viewers, I’m reliably told, actually prefer the Gaelic as they love it when the commentator shouts “Penis! Penis a Glasgow!” when a penalty is awarded and then what sounds like “shat it” after a player misses a kick.
Apparently Alba covers the Edinburgh and Glasgow Pro 14 games because it is mandatory for the BBC to show some sport in Gaelic. But I reckon they should stick to shinty!
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How many councillors read this column is unquantified – I know two of the Shetland South representatives and a few others do but the overall impact may be negligible.
The powers of our elected representatives and the opportunity to debate are also reduced from what they once were, not helped by the actions of a certain “ferry louper” who breezed in and out again having done his bit.
But I shall say this once more, and it is probably more fitting as the old Anderson High School has now closed its doors before the impending move to its new home at the Staney Hill.
Could someone with more influence than me please begin lobbying for the retention of the perfectly good games hall at the Knab site, and the development of a much-needed artificial pitch for hockey on the adjacent tarmac area.
Come on Messrs Smith, Duncan and the rest. Do something to make your constituents rightly proud of you!