"I saw Garry as a talented young player and I didn't want him to ruin his football life. We have to look at this from a human point of view but Garry knows it's last chance saloon."
So said Alex McLeish as he apparently opened the door slightly on a return to international football for Garry O’Connor.
Sensible of McLeish to leave his options open. Sensible also to make the announcement to the press. An operator as shrewd as McLeish is sure to gauge public opinion before making this call so early in his tenure as Scotland boss.
And McLeish may feel more than a certain empathy for O’Connor. After all, playing for Scotland is a far more effective shop window than Russia as O’Connor tries to engineer a move to England. It was, I’m sure, this principle that guided McLeish as he thrust himself on every media outlet in England in his attempts to land a Premiership job in the six months before he settled for the Scotland job.
Perhaps, however, O’Connor should be made to stew a while longer.
Firstly his indiscretion was not his first example of bad behaviour or stupidity.
Secondly, he cites family responsibilities as an excuse for his irresponsibility: in fact, for a long time, Garry O’Connor has been a daft laddie unwilling, or unable, to grow up.
Third, he should have immediately distanced himself from the comments his father made in the aftermath of his withdrawal.
And, finally, he should have apologised himself, not through his agent.
Still the dispute was with Walter Smith and McLeish should start with a clean slate. But if O’Connor is rushed back to the Scotland squad and finds another double header all too much for him then McLeish needs to be aware that his reign will be weakened before it has properly begun.