Tuesday, January 15, 2008
McGhee to lead the Tartan Army?
In football, as in most aspects of life, timing is everything. When Walter Smith left the Scotland manager's post last year in favour of a return to Rangers, Mark McGhee was hardly a leading candidate to take over.
Now, twelve months on, it's no surprise that the former Morton, Newcastle United, Aberdeen, Hamburg, Celtic, Brage and Reading striker (it only seemed to right to list all his clubs) is the bookies' favourite to move into the Hampden Park office, previously occupied by Smith and his successor, Alex McLeish.
To be fair, the Scottish Football Association have decided nothing yet. Motherwell manager McGhee is on a shortlist on five along with George Burley, Tommy Burns, Graeme Souness and Billy Davies. It looks increasingly likely though, that the urbane McGhee holds the upper hand.
In the past trying fortnight, McGhee has conducted himself in a manner clearly anathema to some of the American presidential candidates! The death of Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell gave the manager, (whether he liked it or not) the role of public face and voice of the football club during the difficult grieving period. McGhee has acted with dignity and sensitivity throughout.
Rarely out of employment since hanging up his boots in the Seventies, McGhee has carried out arguably his most successful salvage operation yet, since returning home to Scotland last summer.
Motherwell are third in the table and looking good for a UEFA Cup place. Perhaps more importantly, McGhee has them playing the most stylish, swashbuckling football seen at Fir Park since the halcyon days of Bobby Graham and Willie Pettigrew three decades ago.
While every ambitious Scottish manager would naturally have designs on the national team post, McGhee, now inextricably tied to Motherwell in their time of mourning, has acknowledged that he might have to stay put. Without the blessing of everyone at Fir Park, he won't be going anywhere.
The Scottish Football Association of course can't afford to wait too long, with preparations for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign already underway.
You can make strong cases for all five candidates to be interviewed for the Scotland job. Every one of them has something to commend them.
The time just seems ripe for Mark McGhee.
I met Liverpool's co-owner Tom Hicks back in May when he was kind enough to spend some time with us live on ESPNSoccernet Press Pass at our dramatic Athens studio set. This was on the eve of last season's UEFA Champions League final. He may not be steeped in the history of Liverpool Football Club, but the Texan tycoon is no fool.
So, when Hicks told the Liverpool Echo the other day that talks had been held with Jürgen Klinsmann at a time when the future of Rafa Benitez was, to say the least, under a cloud, more than a few eyebrows were raised on Merseyside and elsewhere.
Klinsmann has now agreed to become Bayern Munich head coach in the summer but approaching the ex-Germany boss was in the words of Hicks, an 'insurance policy' in case Benitez was lured away from Liverpool by a big continental club like Real Madrid.
The fact is, Real Madrid, who have been getting results under Bernd Schuster had no interest whatsoever in changing horses in mid-stream this season.
The logical conclusion to draw from this is that Rafa Benitez will be mighty lucky to see the season out. Perhaps only another lengthy UEFA Champions League run can save the manager now.
Hicks, well aware of the ways of journalism, surely knew what he was doing when talking to the Echo.
But getting rid of the stubborn Spaniard won't be inexpensive as he still has more than two years left on his contract.
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