I WAS never sure whether Craig Levein would stay or go as Scotland manager, it has been a hard one to call.
But the one thing everyone could be certain of was that the SFA would dither over the decision. Whether you like Craig or not, the matter was cut and dried. Either back him or sack him. Instead, more than a fortnight after the 2-0 defeat gainst Belgium, and hours before a squad is due to be named for the friendly against Luxembourg, still no-one has been able to make a definitive judgment. The seven-man SFA board, who may finally resolve the issue via a conference call today, buried their heads in the sand and effectively hoped the issue would go away. It didn't and now the timing could hardly be worse.
I still think Craig is a good coach, it just hasn't happened for him in the Scotland job. I have listed his mistakes many times. But there he is, still waiting to find out what is happening with his job. I'm sure no-one wants a decision more than he does. I can only imagine how he is feeling. When Gordon Chisholm and I left Dundee United we had lost to 3-2 to Aberdeen in a cup tie on the Saturday. We all thought that would be that, but it wasn't until late the next week we were called into the chairman's office. It was the longest four days of my life.
Loading article content
No doubt the SFA will say they are an easy target, but they don't half provide their critics with ammunition. I know Campbell Ogilvie, the SFA president, and you couldn't meet a nicer man. Any decision has to be agreed by a board which includes chief executive Stewart Regan and vice-presidents Alan McRae and Rod Petrie, but I'm not sure there is a strong enough character amongst them.
As an organisation, they would have looked stronger had they come out straight away after the Belgium game and backed Craig properly. They could have said, "we don't bow to public pressure", acknowledged that everything hasn't gone well, but restated the fact that they think he is a good coach. Alternatively, they could have said, "look, Craig it has not worked out", but one way or another they should have made a decision.
The board are clearly split and undecided on the subject, but for me the length of time they are leaving it makes it appear more likely they will keep Craig. Someone has to name a squad on Tuesday, and it would be unfair to ask a caretaker to do so just 24 hours – at most – after taking the job. The more the SFA have delayed the announcement, the more likely it seems they will just let him name the squad. Perhaps they think we will beat Luxembourg, win our other friendly against Estonia in February, and that will sell tickets for the qualifier against Wales in March.
But things might just have reached such a point of no return with the fans and for me it is doubtful tickets will sell well now, even on the back of a couple of friendly wins. I might be wrong, but that is typical of what the SFA usually do. It would cost £700,000 to get rid of Craig, but the SFA will have to work out if that is a price worth paying if his departure means attendances improving for home games.
In all likelihood, only pride is at stake for the remainder of this campaign, but whatever happens I wouldn't go for wholesale changes against Luxembourg. Craig is on record as saying it is the best group of players we have had for a while and they are behind him. I have always said we have players in that squad who are capable of winning one of our home games and drawing one of the away games. We have the players to play quite offensive football in most games, although maybe not Belgium away.
Any new manager would like games to prepare for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, but if Craig stays he will have to build himself back up from scratch in the eyes of the fans. As it is just now, the SFA are hanging him out to dry and the press are all over it like a rash. Someone said to me in Brussels right after the game, "I bet the SFA stutter and stammer before making this decision". They have not let us down.
RANGERS losing to Inverness wasn't a shock for me, but it shows you how far they have dropped and how far they still have to go to get back. You can't sack anyone for getting to a quarter-final when you are a Third Division club, but there is definitely pressure on Ally McCoist, more so now.
Having said that, people were sceptical when Charles Green first came in, but the more I hear about him the more I know he is going up in people's estimation. Some people I know within the club who rated him a five or six out of 10 at first now think he is a seven or eight. And if he can get Walter Smith in as a director, that would make it a nine or 10.