McLeish favourite for Scotland as Burns exits

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The Independent Football

Tommy Burns removed himself from contention to be the next Scotland manager yesterday, increasing speculation that Alex McLeish, now the bookmakers' favourite at odds of 1-5, will be appointed soon.

The Scottish Football Association insist that the search for Walter Smith's successor remains "at an early stage". But with Burns - Smith's assistant with Scotland - out of the running, and with McLeish the only candidate yet to confirm he has been called for interview, the options are narrowing.

The SFA has made clear that the next manager will be Scottish, that it would prefer not to pay compensation and that it wants a manager in place in the next couple of weeks. That would appear to rule out Kilmarnock's Jim Jefferies (who has heard nothing from the SFA anyway), Dundee United's Craig Levein, and Joe Jordan, Harry Redknapp's No 2 at Portsmouth.

So it seems McLeish and Gary McAllister remain in the running. While McAllister would jump at the chance, he has limited management experience (a short spell at Coventry from 2002) and is also in the frame to return to Coventry to succeed Micky Adams.

Burns' decision to pull out was disclosed via Celtic, where he is the first-team coach. "Celtic football club is delighted Tommy has decided to devote all his energy to Celtic in his positions as first-team coach and head of youth development," said a statement on the club's website.