NEIL LENNON last night endorsed Gordon Strachan's credentials to be the next manager of Scotland, but said whoever replaces Craig Levein will have to crack down on the players' indiscipline and poor behaviour.
The Celtic manager, speaking ahead of tonight's Champions League group G match with Barcelona, spoke of his sympathy for Levein, whose services were dispensed with by the Scottish Football Association on Monday evening after a dismal start to the World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign, and made veiled references to the poor attitude which he feels cost the Scotland manager his job.
"I think you need a manager who will be strong with the players and get them onside," said Lennon. "The players need to have a look at themselves as well. They need to leave egos at the door and put the whole focus on Scotland for the two weeks or however long they are away from the clubs. I'm not sure all of them have done that looking at performances and attitude.
Loading article content
"If you look at scandals and behaviour on and off the pitch – this has taken up more of the headlines than performances. The next manager has to be really disciplined and set down his rules and the players have to adhere to them."
It was rather less surprising last night that Lennon should have declared in favour of Strachan, the odds-on favourite for the job and a man under whom he worked as a player and who set him on this present course when he brought him back to Parkhead as a coach following the death of Tommy Burns.
"I'm biased, but I'd go for Gordon," said Lennon. "I don't know if he'd thank me for that! I don't know what his thinking is and I know he's enjoying his media work. But for me he's an outstanding candidate for the job.
"I think you need a manager and a figurehead to get this team back on line," the Celtic manager added. "There are a lot of good candidates out there when you think of Walter [Smith], Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Gordon, Joe Jordan – these guys have fantastic pedigrees and there's no reason why one of them couldn't come in and resurrect them. There is a gravitas with people who have gone the distance in their careers. I'm not saying Craig didn't know what he's talking about, but players will say 'yeah, this guy has experience and can pass it on to us'."
Ahead of today's squad announcement by interim manager Billy Stark, Scott Brown concurred with his club manager on both counts. "He [Strachan] is brilliant and he would be a great national manager," Brown said.
"It's not for me to say, but it would be good to team up with him again. We will rebuild and go again. I hope I am in Luxembourg next week. Whatever the SFA decide to do, they decide to do. But it's not just about the manager. We have a good team and we have let everyone down. On paper we are miles above what we should be doing but we've not been doing it. You can't keep chopping and changing managers because the players aren't doing it."
The candidature of the former Scotland midfielder also received the backing of his former Aberdeen team-mate Alex McLeish, a man who up until yesterday had been assumed to be in the running himself.
"Gordon looks a pretty good choice to me," said McLeish, whose path remains set on club football for the foreseeable future. "He's had great success at club level with Celtic. Whether he wants to come away from his TV role, because he's very good at that, is a big decision for him to make."
Smith is another who fits the disciplinarian mould called for by Lennon. Although he may not be universally popular with the Tartan Army after leaving the Scotland job to rejoin Rangers, it is thought he would at least entertain an approach from the SFA.
Lee McCulloch said last night that the manner of his departure should not be allowed to overshadow highlights such as masterminding the 1-0 victory against France at Hampden in 2006.
"I've never met a guy or a manager that's so respected within the game," said McCulloch, speaking ahead of the Remembrance Day commemorations at his club's meeting with Peterhead on Saturday.
"He can get a reaction from someone from not saying a word – all he needs is a stare, that famous Walter Smith stare. If he did go back, I'm sure the players and fans would be delighted with that. You're never going to please everyone – there will be one or two who might be unhappy, but whether that would be a deciding factor or not I don't know. Had it been any club other than Rangers he left Scotland for, then I could see why people would have a pop, but everyone knows what Rangers means to him."