Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Belgium v Scotland: Levein leaving?

Scotland's road to Rio. A dismal football journey.

We got about as far as the five year old who runs away from home and sits down under the whirligig on the back green to wait for the bus.

The five year old might have shown more sophistication.

It's hardly a surprise that we looked so adrift against an impressive Belgium. In the goalless first half an amazing combination of Allan McGregor's excellence, Belgian profligacy and Scottish luck combined to protect our goal.

Somehow we could almost have nicked the lead.

We wouldn't have deserved it.

The second half wore on. Still we hung on at 0-0.

Could we dare to dream the impossible dream?

No. A rather prosaic opener followed by a moment to savour from a defender.


That flattered us. We'd kept the deadlock despite chasing shadows. We were unlikely to hold out.

As I wrote yesterday Craig Levein is a manager destined to fail even when all he wants to do is avoid defeat.

They were just better than us. Painfully so.

We might ask how Belgium have developed such rich talent while Scotland have excelled in nothing more than pedestrianism.

A fair question. A conundrum that the SFA have asked Mark Wotte to solve.

That will take time. Already he's lost a couple of coaches who fans, as innocently concerned bystanders, might have thought would be his key lieutenants.

But we shouldn't prejudge. The Wotte revolution has yet to play out and we can only trust that the people he surrounds himself with, the new and the old, are guided by a great feeling of love for our game.

That's for a new generation, the footballing future we all dream of.

A vision Craig Levein has bought into. He sees a footballing recovery quickened by the input of the national manager.

That's admirable and I've no reason to doubt the strength of his desire to shape our future.

But somewhere between our glorious yesterdays (never hugely glorious) and our golden tomorrows (perhaps not hugely golden) we need a footballing present.

And Craig Levein can no longer play a part in the here and now of the national team.

He's failed.

We're bottom of the group.

He's failed miserably.

12 qualifying games. Three wins.

International football is tough. We accept that. We accept that losing in Belgium is a predictable enough fate for Scotland these days.

We shouldn't castigate Levein for losing home and away to Spain.

But consider this; Lithuania away; Czech Republic away; Czech Republic home; Serbia home; Macedonia home; Wales away.

If Scotland were making progress we'd be winning some of these games.

Certainly winning more than Liechtenstein (twice) and Lithuania at home.

The players we have at our disposal should be getting better results.

The manager must take the blame.

Not everyone agrees.

"Change manager but suffer the same miserable fate, for there's more wrong with our game than Craig Levein," they say.

They're right. There is more than Craig Levein wrong with Scottish football.

But when a man isn't tired of the mediocrity of Craig Levein's national side, he is tired of Scotland as a football team of any worth.

I'm not tired of Scotland.

I remember our last five major championship appearances.

Craig Levein was tasked with getting us closer to those halcyon days.

He's failed.

A decent guy who cares about Scotland, wants us to thrive, wants to contribute to our footballing future.

That's Craig Levein.

But he's also a failure.

And failure can only be rewarded with dismissal.

Will the SFA sack Craig Levein?

Scotland's next qualifier is in March. Levein still has a lucrative amount of time left on his contract, the apparent support of his players and a determination to go absolutely nowhere.

But Scotland are out of the World Cup and the SFA have to sell tickets for a series of pointless competitive games.

All of which makes me think that Levein will stumble on until January before a "mutual consent" press release is sent out from Hampden.

Craig Levein's successor?

A brave man indeed.

We all have opinions.

"Knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful."

Harsh that. But we'll come up with a lot of names and none of us will have the definitive answer.

Consensus is unlikely.

Levein's great lesson might be that having the guts to take the job doesn't necessarily mean being brave enough to do the job justice.

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