GORDON Strachan is the right manager at the right time for Scotland.
He was always the No 1 choice of the Tartan Army, and when all the other potential candidates started drifting back into football – Alex McLeish at Nottingham Forest, Joe Jordan at QPR, and Walter Smith at Rangers as a director – he was the outstanding candidate. A no-brainer even for the SFA. But let's not fool ourselves here. His appointment comes with a huge weight of patriotic expectation. That said, I think he will do well because he brings experience, enthusiasm and an aura. When Gordon walks in a room, you sense he is a man with presence.
I know he looked at his options in club football and the right jobs weren't coming up, but this is a great opportunity for him at this time in his life. Managers love taking a job when a team is at rock bottom and things can't get any worse, and when you look at our World Cup qualifying group, that is precisely where we are.
I still stand by the players, I just think things didn't work out for Craig Levein for whatever reason. So I'm expecting that, in the main, Gordon will stick with the personnel Craig used. They were unlucky in some of the qualifying games. If we had got the right results against Serbia and Macedonia, he could have gone to Wales and been cautious, but instead he had to go and attack to keep our faltering hopes alive after drawing the two home games.
I don't really go along with the theory that we still need a world-class player to prosper. We are good up front and quite solid in midfield, I just think we are a couple of centre-halves away from being a really decent team.
The news that Darren Fletcher will miss the rest of the season is a huge blow to the national manager and the player, but Gordon got the best out of Gary Caldwell and made him a leader at Celtic.
Although Caldwell lacks pace, he has good intelligence and uses the ball well. The style of football might change from game to game according to the opposition but against lesser nations I can see Gordon playing two up front; he did it with Celtic because he liked 4-4-2 and got results with that formation. It's interesting to note that he and his assistant, Mark McGhee, are going to commute from England.
The SFA had to relax the rule about living in Scotland because they were doing themselves out of plausible candidates. I think they insisted George Burley relocate north of the border, but they would have been a laughing stock if they had missed out on Gordon for that reason. These days, you can jump on a plane and be up here in 45 minutes.
I am not saying things were dull under Levein, but Gordon should be box office. His opening press conference was excellent, everything you would expect from him because he is so media savvy. I am sure there will be occasions when he starts getting a bit lippy, but there are no negatives so far, and in McGhee, and possibly the third member of the backroom staff – maybe Gary McAllister – he is surrounding himself with people who have coaching experience, are trustworthy and Scottish.
YOU cannot argue with the job Peter Houston has done up at Dundee United. The Scottish Cup win sticks out a mile, and there have been SPL finishes of third, fourth and fourth in his three seasons in charge. He had a hard job in following Craig Levein, but he sustained their success and made the team better. However, I don't think I would be out of order in saying the relationship between Stephen Thompson and Peter is strained.
I am sure both sides will be professional until the manager walks out of Tannadice for the last time at the end of the season, but I honestly don't think it is a great situation. United don't have to pay out compensation and have plenty of time to find a replacement, but I don't think it is ideal for Peter or the players. For me, the only reason he is not walking now is that he wants to leave with an unblemished CV.