Monday, December 21, 2009

Will he, won't he?

When George Burley was finally relieved of his duties as Scotland boss I put together a list of the men I considered to be the runners and riders. I had this to say about Craig Levein:
Few would argue with this and we could expect to see Scotland adopting a revolutionary new approach based around organisation and cohesive tactics. But Levein is only 45 and master of all he surveys at Dundee United where the bare trophy cabinet points to what he considers to be unfinished business. Will the call of his nation appeal? I'd predict he'll quietly rule himself out in the weeks ahead.
In the intervening weeks Levein has surprised me by refusing to rule himself out. Indeed some might say he has actively courted the SFA. And now, apparently, the SFA are set to offer him the job.

He has made it clear that he wants an expanded remit. I would have thought that would scare the SFA but by going public with their approach they must have a certain confidence in the package they’ve put together. If there is any lingering animosity between him and head honcho Gordon Smith then Smith should be applauded for casting that aside and pursuing the man he believes to be the best candidate.

But Levein’s battles with the SFA have always been bigger than personalities. At times he seems to view with little more than contempt an archaic organisation that he clearly believes to be out of touch and clueless. So why sign up with them?

Maybe he thinks he can change them from the inside. If he can then all of Scottish football would applaud. But, you know, I’m sure Mrs Tiger Woods was comfortable that she’d be the one to change her man. Life doesn’t always work like that.

So there is an element of surprise in Levein taking things this far. But is he the outstanding candidate?

I was going to say no, if only because an attack on him would let me talk about his comedy whack on Hearts teammate Graham Hogg in a friendly against Raith Rovers. Overall, however, I would be happy with a Levein appointment. And if you can get a 12 match ban for attacking your own player in a friendly then you’ve clearly got a passion for football.

You would think from some of the press he’s received in the past few months that Levein was practicing alchemy at Tannadice. He’s not. He’s created a team that performs better than average in a weak league. It ain’t rocket science.

But he’s organised, can explain a game plan and have confidence that it will be carried out by players who respect him. They’re all traits that have been sadly lacking in the Burley era.

We don’t know what the recruitment process has entailed. Some might see this as slightly too quick, not leaving time for an assessment of all the contenders. On the other hand maybe Smith and his fellow Chuckle Brother, George Peat, are finally showing the decisiveness we’ve been crying out for.

So this has the potential to be a happy week for the national team. Except he’s still got to take the job and I don’t think that’s a forgone conclusion.