THERE isn't exactly a shortage of evidence for Scotland's long-term decline in international football, but what amounted to a little bit more emerged from the small print of Gordon Strachan's terms as the new manager.
He will be the first Scotland coach ever to do the job while living in another country.
When Graeme Souness was interviewed for the position in 2008 he said he wished to do it by commuting from England. The Scottish Football Association said that was unacceptable and gave the job to George Burley instead. Now the goalposts have changed. Stewart Regan – appointing a national coach for the first time – clearly decided that the preferred candidate would not be ruled out simply on the basis of where he lived. The SFA were not in a strong enough bargaining position to play hardball on that this time. Besides, Regan travels regularly to his family home in England: what's good enough for the chief executive had to be good enough for the manager too.
If there are those who feel that the manager living somewhere else shows the ongoing erosion of the status of being in charge of Scotland, others are pragmatic and can see the benefits of it.
So many of the current Scotland squad play in the Barclays Premier League or npower Championship that Strachan was entitled to point out that it would be easier to watch them in action by travelling from Warwickshire, where he lives, than Glasgow. He will commute for SFA duties once-a-week or so, to watch Clydesdale Bank Premier League matches and attend to all other business.
Ally McCoist was fully supportive of Strachan yesterday, not only in terms of his credentials but in his ongoing residency in England. "The world is a small place and Britain is even smaller," said the Rangers manager. "He'll come up here and watch games as well as monitoring matches in England. For me [where he lives] isn't an issue at all."
Usually Rangers have a reservoir of Scotland players too, of course, but in the Irn-Bru Third Division only Lee Wallace currently has any sort of claim to be considered. Former manager Craig Levein lacked clarity or consistency on the issue of picking Rangers players while they are in the bottom tier, but Strachan has closed no doors.
"I would absolutely promote any of my players to get into the national team, of course I would," said McCoist. "Gordon will watch them: you don't come into the job and start closing the door on people. That's the last thing you would do.
"I think it's fair to say that his choices here at the moment would be limited, although I'd be surprised if Gordon or somebody else didn't have a wee look at Lee Wallace. I'm not telling him how to do his job one day into it, but he's intelligent enough not to close that door, especially when you look at the good young players we already have involved at international level."
His relationship with Strachan goes back decades. They played against each other in Rangers-Aberdeen games, and when Rangers faced Leeds United in 1992, they were team-mates for Scotland, and then dug-out adversaries again when McCoist was assistant manager at Ibrox and Strachan the Celtic manager.
"His past experience at Celtic will help him massively," McCoist said. "I remember having a chat with Gordon and telling him that a lot of people told me if you can manage at the Old Firm, you can manage absolutely anywhere. The Scotland job is certainly up there with the pressure of being an Old Firm manager. He knows what is expected of him and I don't in any way see Gordon having problems in terms of something coming from left field which would unsettle him.
"I'm happier with a Scotsman in charge. Gordon is exactly what you see on the tin. He's a good coach, a good manager. He's a feisty character, he wants to win. He sums up the Scottish football player and Scottish football fan. He is knowledgeable and he will absolutely want to succeed. That will be of paramount importance to him.
"We need to look at the positives and he'll probably feel that there isn't that much that needs to be done to turn draws into wins and defeats into draws. Gordon will be vocal in and around his squads. The players will know he's there."