George Burley: The Problem of Managing Scotland

Adam DenneheyContributor INovember 15, 2009

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 05:  George Burley, coach of Scotland  reacts during the FIFA 2010 World Cup Qualifier match beteween Scotland and Macedonia at Hampden Park on September 5, 2009 in Glasgow, Scotland.  (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

In the wake of Scotland’s disappointing 3-0 defeat to Wales in Cardiff on Saturday, George Burley has again come under pressure and we've learnt that he's now lost his job as Scotland Manager

The SFA and fans could probably just about take missing out on the World Cup, but losing to a below-par Wales in such disappointing style was the last straw for all concerned.

But in truth, could Burley really have done any better with the current crop of players. In this article, I’ll give my view on George Burley’s position as Scotland manager and the current state of the Scottish team. If you’d be kind to leave your comments that’d be great!

The Scottish football team, at the moment, are a side that is lacking in inspiration and one that’s lacking any real sustained class throughout the team.

Tonight it’s again being reported that George Burley is looking in danger of losing his job. Though it could be argued that the ex-Ipswich manager has taken the team as far as they can currently go anyway. That’s not a reflection on Burley, but the fact that the Scottish game is struggling, and this is being reflected in the teams performances.

When Burley took over there was much optimism that the side could target at least second place in their world cup qualifying group, as long as they could edge out Norway. Under Walter Smith and Alex McLeish the team almost qualified for Euro 2008, being pushed into third on the final night of the group qualifying with a brave 2-1 defeat at the hands of Donadoni’s Italy at Hampden in November 2007. It was a glorious failure for the Scots, whose performances were nothing short of exceptional. Had it not been for a poor performance in Georgia and some poor officiating in Ukraine, the Scots could have possibly won the group.

With McLeish moving onto Birmingham City, a new manager was needed. There was talk of Graeme Souness, Mark McGhee, and even George Graham taking over but the SFA went to Burley with the aim of getting the team to the 2010 World Cup. At the time of his appointment, many people believed that Burley was not the first choice for the job with candidates, but that he could slowly move the team forward.

Since Burley took the job the team has won only three of the 14 games that the team has played. In those games the team has scored only eight goals. Four of those came in two wins against Iceland in the World Cup Qualifying Group. Aside from those wins against Iceland, Burley has only tasted victory once more, and that came against Macedonia at Hampden. The fact that the team are not scoring enough, or creating enough chances is also playing its part.

Rangers’s striker Kris Boyd has been left out of the international set up partly due to the striker not making himself available, but surely Burley could have done more to include the striker in the team. Even before his exclusion from the team, Burley really should have brought on the Rangers hitman against Norway early on in the Qualifying campaign. Instead, on came Chris Iwelumno who fluffed one of the easiest chances in the world that goal-poacher Boyd would have scored in his sleep, and two vital points were dropped.

Sadly that has not been the case for Burley, as the team just has not got to grips with games since his appointment. He certainly is not helped by the fact that the team is lacking talent, and that was not helped by the actions of Alan McGregor, and Barry Ferguson who have since been dropped from the team for disciplinary reasons. Both players were rightfully dropped for their part in a late-night drinking session after Holland beat the team 3-0 in Amsterdam, and for subsequent hand gestures made from the bench during the win over Iceland at Hampden.

Of course players are responsible for their actions, but after their actions after the Holland game, the players should not have been allowed on the bench for the Iceland game, and been thrown out of the squad there and then. Had that been the case, perhaps the media might have praised Burley more, and the only attention on the team would have been solely on how the team did on the pitch. Others claim that perhaps Burley and the SFA could have gone as far as to not make a deal out of McGregor and Ferguson's actions, and make sure that they were still involved, for the sake of the team.

Burley is a decent manager at heart, but a manager is only as good as his players. The current group of players are inexperienced overall with not alot of the squad having played European football. Darren Fletcher is doing a good job as the skipper, and is a player who any manager can help build a team around. James McFadden and Scott Brown aside, there is very little imagination in the side, and as a result the team is struggling when it really matters.

This is a reflection on the Scottish game, which is getting worse by the year; this is being highlighted by Celtic and Rangers performances in Europe this year. Rangers 4-1 home defeat at Ibrox to Dan Petrescu’s Unirea Urziceni was nothing short of a national embarrassment, at least Celtic bars a defeat in Israel have shown pride in their performances.

During and after the Wales game, the Scottish fans in attendance at the game could be heard jeering the team and calling for Burley to quit. The Tartan-Army have lost faith in Burley, and although it’s perhaps harsh on the manager, perhaps this would be a good time for a new start.

Should Burley be forced out of his job in the next couple of days the SFA have to make a decision, and whoever the next manager will be, he has to be given time to build a team that can challenge for a play off place for Euro 2012. Scotland will be seeded in the third spot in the team so when the draw’s made the team will be on the back foot straight away.

First things first, the new manager needs to improve the fitness and team spirit of the team, which should ensure Scotland put in respectable performances and beat sides that they are expected to beat.  My choice for the new manager would be Jimmy Calderwood who did a fine job managing Aberdeen and has the experience over the other leading contender in Craig Levein of Dundee United

Only then can the team move forward as it's looking more likely that it could be another decade before the team reach a major finals. That would be a shame on guys like Fletcher, McFadden, Brown, and the returning Craig Gordon, but that's the truth sadly.