Sport

Saturday 12 July 2014

Journey to Scotland job has taken 40 years, but it’s been worth the wait, says Gordon Strachan

Ronnie Esplin

Published 15/01/2013|10:59

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GORDON STRACHAN spoke of a 40-year football journey ending in pride today when he was named the new Scotland manager.

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The former Coventry, Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough boss was confirmed in the post by the Scottish Football Association before a lunchtime press conference at Hampden.

Strachan started his career as a teenager at Dundee and a long and illustrious playing career which followed at Aberdeen, Manchester United, Leeds United and Coventry City earned him 50 caps for Scotland.

The 55-year-old has been out of management since leaving Boro in October 2010 but he realised a long-held dream when made boss of his national side on a contract that will take him through to the 2016 European Championship qualifiers.

"I am very proud of myself but my family, my wife, mother, grand children, children and my friends are very proud so it shows you how important the Scotland job is," he said.

"It is probably 40 years in the making to get here.

"It is a job that I wanted to do and for a Scotsman, this is a fantastic thing.

"When I was a kid I wanted to play for Scotland and I did that.

"Then I started coaching and I thought 'I want to be the Scotland manager some day' so I have achieved that with the help of a lot of people and players.

"It is going to be difficult, every job is difficult. The Coventry job is difficult, Southampton, Middlesbrough, they are all difficult.

"You don't get an easy one but you can still enjoy it. But the idea is to make people happy and win games of football."

Strachan was interviewed for the job in 2004 following the dismissal of Berti Vogts but lost out to rival candidate Walter Smith.

However, he insists that disappointment turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

"When I look back on it, I think it was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said.

"I went on progress and do other things. All the experiences I have had as a manager have prepared me for this time.

"I think this is the best time for me. I still felt at that time that working with players and developing players full time was my best (attribute) but if you are asked to come to an interview with Scotland you don't turn it down.

"But it was the best thing that happened, I could go away and learn my job and continue to improve players and squads.

"Every club you go to there is always challenges but this is the first time the challenge is on behalf of the nation.

"But the rewards to that are that if you can be successful you can make a nation happy and proud. That is the factor for me and I will try and do that, with the help from other people."

What cannot be disguised, however, is the task that awaits the man from Edinburgh who will take charge of his first match against Estonia in a friendly at Pittodrie on February 6.

Scotland then face Wales and Serbia in a World Cup 2014 qualification double-header in March.

Hopes of qualifying for the Brazil, though, are all but over after taking just two points from their first four Group A games under former boss Craig Levein, who departed in November.

However, Strachan, who will be based in England, refused to throw in the towel, saying: "We will give it a go, that's all you can do."

He also rebuffed the suggestion that the post was a poisoned chalice: "I think it is a great job. There will be rough times and good times, hopefully there will be more good times than bad."

Strachan admits, however, that he is looking forward to the time when the national team were being talked about more than the Tartan Army.

Asked about realistic aims, he replied: "To progress with this squad. I really want the squad and staff to give something back to the country because the fans are probably more famous than the squad now.

"The fans are famed all over the world. What we want to try to do is give something back to the fans and have them turn up to a major finals.

"I have been there through my television work to these competitions and the Irish have kind of stepped in for us for a while so we hopefully the Irish and Scots can get together at one major finals - it will be one helluva party.

"If we work together as a group and a set of fans, I know for a fact that it works, you can be successful."

Strachan pointed to the two times that he guided Celtic to the last-16 of the Champions League, and Neil Lennon's similar feat with the Parkhead club this season, as evidence that success can be achieved with what is perceived to be inferior resources.

He said: "It shows you can go up against individually better players at huge clubs and you can beat them with a group that all wants to all go in the right direction and with a style that suits them.

"I think Celtic have already shown that this season, they have played a different system from Barcelona and got a result because they have played to their strengths, and they did the same against Spartak Moscow.

"So I go back to it, we have to find the right system that suits the squad."

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