SFA must adopt hardline stance and sack manager at first failed qualifying attempt says Willie Miller

Axed Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.

Scotland legend Willie Miller today insisted Gordon Strachan’s successor must end two decades of qualifying pain or be axed.

Departing boss Strachan oversaw two failed qualifying campaigns and Miller reckons the SFA must now adopt a hardline stance towards any failed bid to reach a major finals – especially with Euro 2020 expanded to 24 teams.

Following the failure to reach Euro 2016, the SFA gave Strachan another contract which led to the doomed bid to reach the World Cup in Russia.

The search for his replacement begins today after Strachan, whose contract was set to expire next month, left the managerial position by “mutual consent”.

Strachan and his assistant Mark McGhee stepped down with immediate effect.

A veteran of two World Cups, Miller reckons there are enough strong Scottish candidates, but would not be averse to going down the route of a foreign coach.

Scotland have only ever been managed by one overseas coach – German Berti Vogts from 2002 to 2004.

Miller reckons whoever the Scots appoint manager the message should be clear – reach Euro 2020 or walk.

He said: “Scotland should qualify for Euro 2020 as there are 24 teams going there.

“When I was playing it was eight teams, then it jumped up to 16 and now it is 24 teams.

“The Euros have opened up for a nation like Scotland so if the new manager cannot secure qualification for 2020 that should be the end of his contract. If he cannot qualify for the Euros then we look for the next man again until we get that right man.”

Former Scotland boss Alex McLeish is among the early names linked with the vacant position. McLeish took the Scots to the brink of Euro 2008 qualification only to lose out to a controversial late goal in a 2-1 home loss to Italy.

Other names quoted are former Manchester United, Everton and Sunderland boss Davie Moyes, Aberdeen’s Derek McInnes, Paul Lambert and SFA performance director Malky Mackay.

Miller said: “The SFA will have to go through the interview scenario with these potential candidates to get their enthusiasm and where they are in their life and what they are trying to achieve.

“There are plenty of candidates out there, which is why I thought the argument there is no one better than Gordon was hollow as you don’t know that until you try.

“There are certainly candidates with good credentials such as Alex McLeish, Paul lambert, Malky Mackay and Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill.

“There will be candidates from abroad as well and I have no problem with an overseas manager if the SFA think that is the right way to go. “

Strachan was appointed Scotland manager in January 2013, succeeding Craig Levein and overseeing the end of the 2014 World Cup bid.

Scotland then failed to reach Euro 2016 and a-2 -2 draw in Slovenia last Sunday ended their hopes of finishing second in Group F and reaching the World Cup play-offs.

Miller said: “After two attempts normally you would expect the manager to change, that is the norm in international football. Scotland finished third behind Slovakia where second place didn’t make the play-offs. So Scotland finished third in the worst group.

“Although there were recent signs of improvement it was a disappointing campaign. If you don’t have the opportunity to qualify for a major championship you have to review the situation.

“Between them they have come up with the answer.

“Gordon always does the right thing and his history tells you that if he feels it is time then he will not prolong the agony for himself, the fans or his employers. A fresh face is probably the right way to go.”

Following an SFA board meeting at Hampden, Scotland’s governing body announced it had “agreed that a new national coach should be recruited to provide fresh impetus.”

Strachan’s future came under scrutiny after a return of just four points from the opening four matches in Group F. The SFA opted to stick by the 60-year-old and were rewarded by an upsurge in form, finishing the group unbeaten in six matches.

However, the draw in Slovenia killed off World Cup dreams and the SFA have opted to look elsehwere.

SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Gordon for his excellent service to the national team.

“I know how disappointed he was that we couldn’t secure a play-off place, but to come so close was a tribute to the belief he instilled in his squad. After almost five years the board felt it was time for a new direction to prepare for the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and also the forthcoming UEFA Nations League.

“We are grateful to both Gordon and Mark for their efforts and wish them the best of luck in the future.”