Levein front-runner as Scots sack Burley

Dundee United manager hotly tipped as 22-month reign comes to an end

The Scottish Football Association's third managerial search in less than three years was underway last night after George Burley's ill-starred 22-month stint in charge came to an end. The straw that broke the camel's back was Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Wales in Cardiff but Burley's overall record of three wins in 14 matches tells its own story.

Craig Levein of Dundee United has many of the credentials to succeed Burley. He commands respect, is innovative, and improves players. And though he is seen as a maverick unafraid of speaking his mind, he should be high on a short-list.

Another intriguing option could be Walter Smith, 61, in charge of Scotland from 2004 to early 2007, when he returned to Rangers and was replaced by Alex McLeish. Smith's contract at Rangers, worth around £1m a year, ends in January, and with Rangers in financial meltdown there is no guarantee it will be renewed, not at that price. Whether Smith has the appetite for another stint is unknown.

Graeme Souness was interviewed last time around but has already ruled himself out this time, saying Scotland are so bad that nobody could get good results with them. "I wouldn't be applying," he said. "I don't want the job. You could have Arsène Wenger or Alex Ferguson managing that group of players, but the outcome wouldn't be different. It is a difficult job simply because they don't have the quality."

Gordon Strachan was the bookmakers' favourite for the post just a few months ago when Burley was last perceived to be in danger. But his immediate future is at Middlesbrough. The SFA would also have been concerned about Strachan's bad relationship with the Scottish media.

Other names on the bookies' lists include Kilmarnock's Jim Jefferies, the former Aberdeen manager Jimmy Calderwood, the former Leeds manager Gary McAllister, Nottingham Forest's Billy Davies, and Aberdeen's Mark McGhee. Jefferies, Calderwood, McAllister and McGhee would probably want the job because it offers more kudos and money (£350,000 per year) than what they do now. But it's hard to see what any of them would offer in breadth or depth of experience at the required level. Davies probably feels better off in club football.



Video: George Burley sacked

Ally McCoist (too inexperienced), Joe Jordan (an outsider) and Darren Ferguson (rank outsider but the only Ferguson available) will also be considered. The SFA does not intend to rush its process but wants the new man in place by 7 February, when the draw for the Euro 2012 qualifying groups take place. A cheap manager (one with no current employment and therefore no compensation payable) would be best at hard-up Hampden, but the SFA wants the best man and will try to find cash if necessary. Scotland's next game is a home friendly against the Czech Republic on 3 March.

Burley, 53, could argue that he has been unlucky at the helm. Virtually every squad was hit by multiple injuries. Controversy dogged him when Rangers' prolific striker Kris Boyd publicly criticised him then said he would never play for him again. The "Boozegate" affair that cost Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor their international careers also undermined him.

Burley was also damaged by trying to play attractive football. It rarely worked because he lacked the personnel, and it was dangerous, as results showed. Smith and McLeish both showed that winning points with average players came via good organisation and defence-minded tactics. It was dull but it worked for them.

Scotland did not become terrible under Burley: they were more than the sum of their parts before him. They overachieved, or rather achieved at the peak of their potential when their best young players were all available and in form. Yet those and others still have potential. The trick is finding the right managerial key to unlock it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot