Scotland national football team manager
The role of a Scotland national football team manager was first established in May 1954, when Andy Beattie was appointed. Beattie took charge of six matches before and during the 1954 FIFA World Cup, when Scotland competed at their first major tournament. Twenty-four men have occupied the post since its inception, with Beattie, Jock Stein and Alex McLeish occupying it in two spells. Six of those managers were in caretaker or interim roles. Craig Brown held the position for the longest to date; a tenure of 9 years, comprising two major tournaments and a total of 71 matches.
No manager has progressed beyond the first group stage of a major competition, even though Scotland qualified for several between 1954 and 1998. Beattie (1954), Walker (1958), Willie Ormond (1974), Ally MacLeod (1978), Stein (1982), Ferguson (1986), Andy Roxburgh (1990 and 1992) and Brown (1996 and 1998) have all managed the team at major competitions. Ian McColl, Ormond and MacLeod all won the British Home Championship outright.
The team has not qualified for a major competition since 1998. German coach Berti Vogts became the first foreign manager of the team in 2002, but his time in charge was generally seen as a failure and the FIFA World Ranking declined to an all-time low of 88 in March 2005. Walter Smith and Alex McLeish achieved better results, with the ranking improving to an all-time high of 13 in October 2007, but both were only briefly in charge before returning to club management. George Burley and Craig Levein both had worse results with the team and were eventually sacked. Results improved somewhat under Gordon Strachan, but he was unable to secure qualification for a tournament. After McLeish had a second spell as manager, Steve Clarke was appointed in May 2019.
The Scotland manager has sole responsibility for all on-the-field elements of the Scotland team. Among other activities, this includes selecting the national team squad, the starting team, captain, tactics, substitutes and penalty-takers. The manager has input in selecting the coaching ("back room") staff. For example, in 2008 manager George Burley helped to recruit Terry Butcher, a former teammate at Ipswich Town, as his assistant. The Scotland manager may also involve himself in wider issues beyond the on-the-field team issues, such as negotiating fixtures. In the period before a manager was appointed, the team was picked by the international selection committee of the Scottish Football Association (SFA). This committee was made up of officials from Scottish clubs, who had responsibility for picking their own sides. There were large inconsistencies in selection; however, and players were often picked without some or all of the selectors having watched them play.
The process of appointing a new Scotland manager is undertaken by the main SFA board. After a review was conducted by former First Minister of Scotland Henry McLeish, the SFA board structure was streamlined considerably in 2011. Professional game and non-professional game boards govern their respective areas of football, while the main board has a strategic focus. There are eight members on the main board, consisting of three SFA office bearers, two representatives from the SPFL, one from the Scottish Amateur FA and two independent members. As of April 2019, these positions were occupied by Alan MacRae (SFA president), Rod Petrie (SFA vice-president), Ian Maxwell (SFA chief executive), Neil Doncaster (SPFL), Mike Mulraney (SPFL), Thomas McKeown (Amateur FA), Ana Stewart (independent) and Malcolm Kpedekpo (independent).
All but one of the 24 people to manage Scotland had played the game professionally. The exception is Dawson Walker, who was placed in interim charge of the team while Matt Busby was recovering from the effects of the Munich air disaster. Of the 23 Scotsmen to hold the post of manager, ten were never capped for the senior Scotland team as a player (Walker, Stein, Prentice, MacDonald, MacLeod, Ferguson, Roxburgh, C. Brown, Smith and Stark), although some of them did represent the Scottish Football League (Stein, Prentice, MacDonald and Ferguson). Of the 13 that played for Scotland, two earned 50 caps or more (McLeish and Strachan), while four also served as Scotland captains (Docherty, McLeish, Levein and Strachan). Berti Vogts, the only foreign manager to hold the post, earned 96 caps for West Germany and was part of their 1974 World Cup winning side.
1950s: Selection committee and temporary managers
Until 1954, the Scotland team was managed by a SFA selection committee. The role of manager was first established in May 1954 with the appointment of Andy Beattie, who took charge on a part-time basis while continuing as manager of Huddersfield Town. Beattie took the team to the 1954 FIFA World Cup, but the SFA only allowed him to select a travelling party of 13 players. Beattie, who felt this restriction made it impossible for him to perform his duties well, resigned during the tournament. Scotland were eliminated from the tournament after a 7–0 defeat by Uruguay.
After the 1954 World Cup, the selection committee resumed their duties, continuing until the appointment of Matt Busby in 1958. Busby was initially unable to assume his duties due to the serious injuries he sustained in the Munich air disaster, with Dawson Walker taking charge of the team while Busby recovered. Busby only took charge of two Scotland matches, but he did give a young Denis Law his first Scotland cap. In March 1959, Andy Beattie became Scotland manager for a second time. During his second spell as Scotland manager, Beattie combined those duties with managing a football club. He resigned in November 1960 in order to manage English club Nottingham Forest on a full-time basis.
Ian McColl, who had just retired from a long playing career with Rangers, was appointed Scotland manager in 1960. He enjoyed significant success, winning British Home Championships in 1962 and 1963 and had an impressive winning percentage. McColl left the team in 1965 to become manager of Sunderland.
Celtic manager Jock Stein was then appointed manager of Scotland on a part-time basis. Stein took charge of their attempt to qualify for the 1966 World Cup. Scotland achieved good results in their first two qualifiers, a draw against Poland and a win against Finland. Stein was criticised by the Scottish press after the team conceded two late goals and lost 2–1 at home to Poland, but they managed to beat Italy 1–0 at Hampden Park to raise some hope of qualification. Scotland suffered from several players withdrawing from the return match against Italy due to injury and a 3–0 defeat meant that they failed to qualify. Clyde manager John Prentice then took the job on a full-time basis in 1966, but left to manage Dundee after just six months and four games in charge.
After Malky MacDonald took charge of two games on a caretaker basis, Bobby Brown was appointed manager. Brown was the first Scotland manager to be given full control of the team, as until then the SFA selection committee had continued to choose the players. Scotland achieved one of their most famous victories in his first game in charge, a 3–2 win against 1966 World Cup winners England at Wembley. The team generally performed well under Brown, but were drawn with West Germany in 1970 FIFA World Cup qualification. Scotland needed to avoid defeat in Hamburg to keep their qualification hopes alive, but lost 3–2.
Tommy Docherty was appointed manager in 1971 and had a brief, but successful, time in charge. Docherty lost only three of his 12 matches as manager, but he left the job in late 1972 to become manager of Manchester United. Despite losing 5–0 to England in his first match in charge, Scotland qualified for the 1974 World Cup under the management of Willie Ormond. Scotland performed creditably at the finals, winning against Zaire and drawing against Brazil and Yugoslavia, but were eliminated on goal difference. Ormond suffered from player indiscipline during his tenure, which included an infamous incident where Jimmy Johnstone, after a night out drinking, sat in a rowing boat that was drifting out to sea. Two teammates attempted to rescue Johnstone, but eventually he had to be retrieved by local fishermen. Ormond left the Scotland job in 1977 to become manager of Hearts.
Ally MacLeod had an immediate impact as Scotland manager, winning against England at Wembley. His team then qualified for the 1978 FIFA World Cup by defeating Wales at Anfield, although Scotland were controversially given a penalty kick. MacLeod was confident about the team's prospects, quipping that his plan for after the World Cup was to "retain it". The supporters shared in this enthusiasm, as Hampden Park was packed for a farewell parade before the team flew to the tournament, hosted by Argentina. MacLeod dismissed his first two opponents, Peru and Iran, as "old men" and "minnows" respectively. A defeat by Peru and a draw with Iran left Scotland needing to defeat the Netherlands by three clear goals to qualify. MacLeod made a number of contested selection decisions, preferring the out of form Don Masson and Bruce Rioch to Graeme Souness. Winger Willie Johnston failed a drugs test after the Peru match and was sent home. Scotland produced an outstanding performance against the Netherlands and won 3–2, but were eliminated on goal difference. MacLeod stayed on as Scotland manager after the World Cup, but resigned after a defeat by Austria in September 1978. Writers have since considered the question of whether MacLeod was the cause of a lack of Scottish self-confidence, or was someone who tried to counter it.
1978–1986: Stein and Ferguson
Jock Stein, who was working as manager of Leeds United, was recruited by the SFA to manage the Scotland team for a second time. Two defeats to Belgium meant that Scotland failed to qualify for the 1980 European Championship. This was followed by losses to Northern Ireland and England in the 1980 British Home Championship, which led to some criticism in the media. Scotland qualified for the 1982 World Cup in Spain, but exited on goal difference after they drew 2–2 with the Soviet Union in a must-win game. Scotland then failed to qualify for the 1984 European Championship, which led to criticism of Stein leading into the next competition, the 1986 World Cup. As a consequence, Stein was facing significant pressure to ensure qualification for the tournament in Mexico.
Scotland defeated Spain 3–1, but then lost 1–0 at home to Wales. This left Scotland needing to secure at least a point from their final group match, against Wales in Cardiff, to qualify for a play-off against Australia. Stein was not helped by the fact that a number of his senior players, including Graeme Souness (his captain), Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen and Steve Archibald would all miss the game through injury or suspension. Stein had been taking diuretics, to reduce pressure on his heart, since the home defeat by Wales. Despite his enthusiasm for the job, these strains had let to Stein indicating that he would step down after the World Cup Finals in Mexico. Scotland drew 1–1 thanks to a late penalty kick by Davie Cooper, but Stein suffered a fatal heart attack. Assistant manager Alex Ferguson took temporary charge of the team until the 1986 World Cup, from which Scotland were eliminated in the group stage.
1986–2001: Roxburgh and Brown
After the 1986 World Cup, the SFA appointed their Director of Coaching, Andy Roxburgh, as the national team manager. Scotland failed to qualify for UEFA Euro 1988, but Roxburgh then guided Scotland to qualification for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Scotland defeated Argentina in a pre-tournament friendly, but were eliminated in the group stage with one win (against Sweden) and two losses. The team then qualified for UEFA Euro 1992, the first time Scotland had qualified for a European championship finals. Roxburgh resigned in September 1993 after failing to qualify for the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
Roxburgh was succeeded by Craig Brown, who had been his assistant. Brown had first joined the Scotland coaching setup in 1986, when the team was managed by Alex Ferguson. His appointment was greeted critically, as Brown had a low-profile career in football beforehand. Despite limited resources, Brown managed to lead Scotland to qualification for two major tournaments, UEFA Euro 1996 and the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Scotland played well in a narrow defeat against Brazil and a draw against Norway, but were eliminated after suffering a 3–0 defeat against Morocco. During 2002 FIFA World Cup qualification, Brown continued to rely on a group of ageing players, including Colin Hendry and Tom Boyd. None of his strikers were playing regularly for their clubs and the team lacked pace. Brown resigned immediately after the last qualification match.
Former Germany manager Berti Vogts was appointed Scotland manager in January 2002. A number of players retired from international football after Craig Brown resigned, which meant that Vogts had to build a new squad. He tried new players and formations, but the team suffered a number of heavy defeats in early friendly fixtures. Scotland reached the UEFA Euro 2004 qualification play-offs and won the first leg at home against the Netherlands, but were then beaten 6–0 in the return match. Vogts continued as manager into the 2006 FIFA World Cup qualification matches, but resigned after the team took just two points from their first three matches. Debate about why Vogts had failed centred on whether Scotland had sufficient playing talent to compete, or if poor results had been due to his own failings.
By the time Walter Smith had been appointed manager, Scotland had dropped to a record low position in the FIFA World Rankings. Smith was credited with creating a "club atmosphere" within the national squad. Scotland performed well in the early stages of a tough UEFA Euro 2008 qualification group, but Smith resigned from the Scotland job in January 2007 to manage Rangers. Alex McLeish was hired to replace Smith. Scotland continued to pursue qualification for Euro 2008 under McLeish, but were eliminated after losing against Italy in the final match. McLeish left the Scotland job soon afterwards, to manage Birmingham City. Despite failing to qualify for a tournament, the improved results under both Smith and McLeish lifted Scotland to 13th place in the world rankings.
George Burley was appointed manager in January 2008. Burley suffered from disruptions to the squad. During a goalless home draw against Norway, Burley substituted in Chris Iwelumo, who missed an open goal from 3 yards. Striker Kris Boyd, who had been left on the bench, announced his retirement from international football. Burley dropped Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor from the team for a qualifying match against Iceland after it was reported they had been drinking through the night at the team hotel. The two players made gestures at photographers while sitting on the substitutes' bench during the match against Iceland and were then banned by the SFA. Despite failing to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the SFA initially decided to keep Burley in the job, but then decided to dismiss him after a heavy defeat in a friendly match against Wales.
Dundee United manager Craig Levein was appointed in December 2009. Levein was heavily criticised by the media for his decision to play without any strikers in a Euro 2012 qualifier against the Czech Republic, which Scotland lost 1–0. Levein continued to defend this tactical approach, even after he had left the position. Scotland failed to qualify for Euro 2012, but Levein argued that the team was improving. For 2014 World Cup qualification, Levein and the SFA successfully pushed for Scotland to have their first two fixtures at home. This policy backfired, however, as Scotland could only draw those two matches. Defeats in following away matches against Wales and Belgium resulted in Levein being sacked by the SFA.
Gordon Strachan was appointed to replace Levein. Strachan was credited with improving the fortunes of the team in his first year in charge, as Scotland achieved victories against Croatia (twice), Macedonia and Norway. In UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying, Scotland appeared to have a better chance of qualification as the finals tournament was expanded from 16 teams to 24, but were drawn in a tough group with Germany, Poland and Republic of Ireland. After losing their opening match in Germany, Scotland recorded home wins against Georgia, Ireland and Gibraltar, and away draws against Poland and Ireland. In their following game Scotland produced an "insipid" performance, as they lost 1–0 in Georgia. A home defeat by Germany and a late equalising goal by Poland eliminated Scotland from contention. After a win against Gibraltar in the last qualifier, Strachan agreed a new contract with the SFA. Improved results in the later part of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification gave Scotland a chance of play-off place, but a 2–2 draw at Slovenia ended those hopes. On 12 October 2017, Strachan left his position by mutual consent.
After a failed attempt to recruit Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill, Alex McLeish was appointed in February 2018 for a second stint as Scotland manager. Scotland won their 2018–19 UEFA Nations League group under McLeish, but he left in April 2019 after a poor start to UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying, including a 3–0 loss against 117th-ranked Kazakhstan. Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke was appointed as his successor.
The following table provides a summary of the complete record of each Scotland manager, including their progress in both the World Cup and the European Championship. Statistically the most successful manager was Alex McLeish, who won seven of the ten games in his first spell. Discounting managers who took charge of less than ten games, the least successful manager was George Burley, with just three wins in 14 games.
|Name||Scotland career||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Win %|
|Dawson Walker[note 1]||1958||6||1||2||3||16.67|
|Malky McDonald[note 2]||1966–1967||2||1||1||0||50.00|
|Alex Ferguson[note 3]||1985–1986||10||3||4||3||30.00|
|Tommy Burns[note 2]||2004||1||0||0||1||0.00|
|Billy Stark[note 2]||2012||1||1||0||0||100.00|
|Malky Mackay[note 2]||2017||1||0||0||1||0.00|
Last updated: Czech Republic v Scotland, 7 September 2019. Statistics include official FIFA-recognised matches, and a match against a Hong Kong League XI played on 23 May 2002 that the Scottish Football Association includes in its statistical totals.
British Home championships
|Andy Beattie||1954||—||—||—||—||—||[note 4]|
|Dawson Walker||1958||—||—||—||—||—||[note 5]|
|Matt Busby||1958||—||—||—||—||—||[note 6]|
|Andy Beattie||1959–1960||1||0||1||0||—||[note 7]|
|Ian McColl||1960–1965||4||2||1||50||1961–62, 1962–63||[note 8]|
|Jock Stein||1965–1966||—||—||—||—||—||[note 9]|
|John Prentice||1966||—||—||—||—||—||[note 9]|
|Malky MacDonald||1966–1967||—||—||—||—||—||[note 10]|
|Bobby Brown||1967–1971||4||0||1||0||—||[note 10]|
|Jock Stein||1978–1985||5||0||0||0||—||[note 11]|
Key: P–Number of complete tournaments played,[note 12] W–Number of tournaments won, S–Number of tournaments shared, %–win percentage
- Dawson Walker was left in charge of the players due to the Munich air disaster, in which official manager Matt Busby was seriously injured.
- Served as manager on a caretaker basis.
- Alex Ferguson was interim manager, following the death of Jock Stein.
- Beattie took charge of one game in the 1953–54 British Home Championship.
- Walker took charge of one game in the 1957–58 British Home Championship.
- Busby took charge of two games in the 1958–59 British Home Championship.
- Beattie took charge of one game in the 1958–59 and the 1960–61 championships.
- McColl took charge of two games in the 1960–61 British Home Championship.
- Stein took charge of two games and Prentice took charge of one game in the 1965–66 British Home Championship.
- MacDonald took charge of two games and Brown took charge of one game in the 1966–67 British Home Championship, which Scotland won outright.
- The 1981 British Home Championship was abandoned due to civil unrest in Northern Ireland. The last British Home Championship was played in 1984.
- Only British Home Championships managed entirely by each manager are included
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