RAINER BONHOF has left his position as Scotland under-21 coach after more than three years in the post. The German was brought in by Berti Vogts in 2002, and helped bring through talents like James McFadden and Darren Fletcher into the full squad.

He has reached agreement with the SFA over the remainder of his contract, which was due to expire next August, and will now return to Germany. "It was a very difficult decision and it was taken purely based on family reasons, because I loved staying in Scotland and working with the under-21s, " Bonhof told The Herald.

"I've been away from home for five years and after talking to David Taylor over the last two weeks I felt it best to give someone else a chance for the next campaign. It makes sense to finish the relationship early because we only have a game in February and one more in August, by which time my contract will be over. I thought it would be better for continuity to have someone come in who can take the squad forward."

The German made a great start to his stewardship, with his side topping their qualifying group and just missing out on the UEFA finals. However, they then went on a 14-game streak without victory from November 2003 until August of this year.

The most recent European championship qualifying campaign ended ignominiously last month, with a 3-0 defeat in Slovenia, leaving them bottom of their group. Yet the poor results are offset by the number of graduates to the full squad.

More than a dozen players made the transition during his tenure, notably McFadden, Fletcher, Shaun Maloney and Garry O'Connor.

Bonhof added: "It's not up to me to decide whether I've been a success or not but I think we've seen a lot of progress and it fills me with pride to see some of my players flourishing in the A squad. I am going back home with no expectations.

I have no job offer. It is just time to return."

David Taylor, the SFA chief executive, said: "Rainer has done an excellent job with the under-21 team, with a large proportion of the current A squad having progressed through his care.

"I would like to thank him for his contribution to Scottish football. We are now looking to the future, and will be recruiting a new coach to take the under21 team into the next European campaign."


The beginning

Bonhof got off to a flier in first qualifying campaign, winning four of six group matches and claiming a play-off spot. There, they went down bravely to Croatia

The end

In the next campaign, one win in 10 matches meant they finished bottom of their group.

Even a brave 2-2 draw with Italy in September was wiped out because Steven Whittaker should not have played

The graduates Bonhof's squad was regularly pillaged by the A side.

Garry O'Connor, Scott Brown, Derek Riordan, Darren Fletcher, James McFadden, Craig Beattie, Shaun Maloney and David Marshall are some who graduated from his era