Burley intent on helping Scotland make 'next step'

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The Independent Online

Passion was the keyword yesterday as George Burley was introduced as Scotland's new manager, a job the 51-year-old said he "never expected" to get, but one that has left him with "a tingle of excitement going through me" at the mere thought of steering Scotland towards to the 2010 World Cup finals.

Never a man to gush effusively, least of all with the massed ranks of the media in front of him, Burley was evidently genuinely moved by his new responsibilities.

"I'm a Scottish lad, passionate about football, and as a Scotsman you've got a vision to do well for your country," he said. "This job gives me the opportunity to try to do something, to try to get to the World Cup finals, and as a manager you couldn't ask for more."

The former Ayr, Colchester, Ipswich, Derby and Hearts manager, who has left Southampton after just over two years at St Mary's, has signed a contract until 2012 and was the unanimous choice of the Scottish Football Association's board according to the SFA's chief executive, Gordon Smith.

"Man-management is his strength," said Smith, who praised all three other short-listed candidates – Mark McGhee, Tommy Burns and Graeme Souness – as "really strong contenders."

Burley said: "I never thought it would ever happen. When Scotland showed interest there were so many outstanding candidates with huge experience. To be asked to be manager of my country is a great honour."

His first game will be a friendly against Croatia on 26 March, with at least two other friendlies likely to be scheduled before World Cup qualifying begins in September. Scotland, who narrowly failed to reach Euro 2008 under Alex McLeish, are grouped in qualifying for South Africa with the Netherlands, Macedonia, Iceland and Norway.

Scotland have not qualified for any tournament since France '98, but Burley said that he will relish the pressure of trying to end the barren years. "It's not going to be easy but there is belief now among the players and within the country [that we can qualify]... I think we'll all be ready for it.

"There is a great base from Walter [Smith] and Alex [McLeish], a good footing, a great squad and the atmosphere is absolutely terrific. The challenge is to go that one step further and qualify."

Burley said he had no qualms about leaving behind day-to-day involvement with players. "I have had 16 years as a club manager and I feel I am ready for [international management]," he said. "I also want to get involved in the grassroots as well. In England it was a worrying sight for me to see clubs down there spending millions on academies and then filling them with 50 per cent of players shipped in from overseas."

Smith said that Burley's commitment to developing home-grown players across the Scottish game was one factor that made him a clear choice. "It's his [planned] contribution as a whole to Scottish football that makes him the right man," Smith said. "His main job is results for Scotland, of course. But his all-round enthusiasm is important."

Scotland's last two managers had relatively short spells in charge before returning to more lucrative club jobs, Smith going to Rangers a year ago and McLeish joining Birmingham in November. Burley will earn around £400,000 a year with Scotland, plus bonuses if applicable. But Smith was relaxed about the prospect that the SFA might lose him quickly, too.

"The contract is to 2012 but whether we can keep him during the contract is another question. I hope we do get interest in George because it will mean he's doing well."

Burley said: "I will certainly be here for the next campaign, then we'll look at it after the World Cup." He praised an "excellent" squad at his disposal, rightly highlighting their "passion" and "togetherness" rather than technical merit as key assets. "I won't be looking to change much," he added.

He expects to appoint his backroom staff "soon", on a part-time basis.

Jocks away: Scots bounce back

Scotland managers:

P/W/D/L/Win rate

Craig Brown (1993-2002) 70/32/18/20/45.71

Berti Vogts (2002-04) 31/8/7/16/23.33

Tommy Burns* (2004) 1/0/0/1/0.00

Walter Smith (2004-07) 16/7/5/4/43.75

Alex McLeish (2007) 10/7/0/3/70.00

* caretaker manager, lost 4-1 at home to Sweden 17 Nov 2004

Scotland's next four games

26 March Scotland v Croatia (Friendly)

6 September Macedonia v Scotland (World Cup qual)

10 September Iceland v Scotland (World Cup qual)

11 October Scotland v Norway (World Cup qual)