IN their pursuit of Craig Levein's successor, the Scottish Football Association will likely be as influenced by external factors as they will by their own hopes and ambitions.
No sooner was Levein removed as Scotland manager then a shortlist emerged. It was not one drawn up by the governing body but by the media, supporters and other interested parties, and comprised the most natural and obvious choices; experienced managers, most with a Scotland connection, and almost all out of work.
Those circumstances are not set in stone, however. Walter Smith was effectively ruled out by his return to Ibrox as a non-executive director, while Alex McLeish soon revealed he had no desire to take the job for a second time. Their removal from the picture seemed to push Joe Jordan towards the front of the queue but he, too, has become unavailable, preferring instead to join Harry Redknapp's salvage operation at Queens Park Rangers. That would seem to leave Gordon Strachan as the obvious favourite, and Owen Coyle and interim coach Billy Stark as others under consideration, but it is a situation that changes on an almost daily basis.
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The longer the SFA wait, the greater the risk Strachan or Coyle will take up offers elsewhere. On the flip side, managers currently in a job may find themselves back seeking work again for whatever reason in the next month or two.
Coyle, speaking at a Tesco Bank Football Challenge event in Glasgow yesterday, was happy for his name to remain in the frame as he looks for a way back into management after leaving Bolton Wanderers but warned that nothing stays the same for long. "We know how quickly things can change; it only takes a phone call," he said. "That's just the nature of football. You saw it last week: the Ukrainian FA were desperate for Harry Redknapp to come on board and I know for a fact that Harry was very keen to take the job. Then, all of a sudden, Mark Hughes leaves Queens Park Rangers and Harry goes there.
"That's how it works, although it's not for me to tell anyone how to run their own house. There are fantastic candidates for the Scotland job; look at Gordon Strachan and what he's done in the game. We're very lucky in that respect and I'm pretty sure the SFA will get the right man."
Coyle reveals he has had offers to return to football in recent weeks but felt none was quite what he was looking for. He does not appear to be in any great rush to immerse himself in the game again, and is flattered by Scotland's interest, but will likely not hang about waiting for a call from Hampden should suitable employment be offered his way in the coming weeks or months.
"If they [the SFA] felt that I was one of those candidates and they wanted to speak, then, of course, I'm quite happy to listen and see what people think; how they want to progress and what they think of yourself and what you can bring to that job," he said. "There is no doubt that the Scotland job is a terrific job for the right candidate.
"I've never been in a position where I would turn round and say to any offer that I'm not interested in it. Should anyone think I'm worthy of being offered a job then I'll listen to them but, ultimately, I'll make my own decision. The approaches I've had in recent weeks, I heard what they had to say and then decided that they weren't right for me. However, the Scotland job wasn't at the back of my mind when I made those decisions; it was all about what would be good for me and for my family. It's always been that way. When I was St Johnstone manager I turned down three jobs in the SPL. I rejected other offers when I was at Burnley before I moved to Bolton."
Coyle, a youthful 46, does not seem an obvious match for the profile of an international manager, many of whom tend to be older figures keen to move away from the grind of club football to take things at a more leisurely pace. A shrewd operator and unfailingly diplomatic, Coyle does not see that as a reason to discount it as this point in his career. "International management has always been associated with the older age group but I think it's changed a wee bit; look at Michael O'Neill at Northern Ireland or Slaven Bilic when he was with Croatia. I've always loved working day-to-day with players but we'll wait and see what comes up."
Coyle has always been something of a mixed bag when it comes to nationality; Glasgow-born to Irish parents, capped once at senior level by the Republic of Ireland, but still a Scot at heart. Modestly, he admits he chose to play for Ireland at under-21 level simply because he could not get into the Scotland squad at that time. "The simplest answer to that is that, at the time I played for Ireland, I was playing as a part-timer with Dumbarton in the first division. Back then the Scotland under-21 team was the best we'd had for a long, long time. Seven or eight of them were playing regularly for the Old Firm – Derek Ferguson, Peter Grant, Derek Whyte, Joe Miller, Robert Fleck and David Robertson.
"My ambition was to play at the highest level possible and, if I'm being totally honest, I didn't – and don't – think I would have been good enough to play in that Scotland team. The Irish watched me play six or seven times for Dumbarton and my first game for them was against Scotland. But I'm Gorbals born and bred. I've got Irish parents, I'm very proud of that and that will never change."