Davies pulls out of race to become Scotland manager

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The Scottish Football Association will be granted permission to speak to Motherwell's Mark McGhee, Southampton's George Burley and Celtic's Tommy Burns about succeeding Alex McLeish as Scotland's manager, and the SFA will talk to Graeme Souness, too, but the fifth man on their shortlist, Billy Davies, has withdrawn his candidacy.

"My representative got a call from the SFA to say I was on the shortlist, and then he took another call to say they wanted to speak to me about the job," said Davies, who parted company with Derby County earlier this season.

"We were informed they wanted to get me involved in the process, and it was then that we told them we would not be taking things any further." It is understood that Davies wants to continue his career in club management and in any case he was no better than fourth favourite for the Scotland job.

McGhee was the initial favourite for the job but Motherwell were thrown into crisis with the tragic death of their captain, Phil O'Donnell, last month, raising doubts over whether McGhee would feel he could walk away. He was due to meet with his chairman, John Boyle, last night, to discuss the SFA's approach.

The former Reading, Brighton and Motherwell manager has insisted he will only leave Motherwell with the "absolute consensus" of everyone at the club. Boyle, while wanting stability at a difficult time, also realises that the Scotland job is a huge opportunity for McGhee.

Scotland's first opponents for the new manager are likely to be revealed today, with the SFA close to announcing the opposition for a friendly on 26 March. However, they will not be Argentina, Nigeria or Poland, as some reports have claimed.

The SFA's chief executive, Gordon Smith, aims to have the new manager in place by the end of the month and plans to hold interviews this week.