Scots need Strachan, the master moulder

As limited resources lead to unlimited humiliation, old boy calls for passionate successor to Vogts
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The Independent Football

Paris does not quite enjoy the monopoly on the Arc de Triomphe. There is a slightly smaller version in Chisinau, but then everything is more modest in the capital of Moldova, officially ranked as Europe's poorest country.

Paris does not quite enjoy the monopoly on the Arc de Triomphe. There is a slightly smaller version in Chisinau, but then everything is more modest in the capital of Moldova, officially ranked as Europe's poorest country.

But for the 1,800 Scotland fans who felt a touch of déjà vu when they saw the apparently familiar landmark, it was a striking symbol of how much your world can change in six years. They had enjoyed the best of times in the bars around the Champs-Elysées, but this dog-eared outpost of Eastern Europe was surely the worst of them.

Scotland's failure to overcome the side ranked 113th by Fifa has all but ended any ambitions of reaching the 2006 World Cup finals, even this early in the campaign. As former international John Collins watched it all unfold in a television studio in Glasgow, where he analysed the game for the BBC, his mind was carried back to the opening game of the 1998 World Cup finals, when he scored a sublime penalty that scared the life out of Brazil.

Not even losing to a late goal could dilute the satisfaction of the 10,000 Scottish fans in the Stade de France that day - they were on the biggest stage of all. Sadly, Scotland will have to live off that memory for a lot longer. By the time the next finals come round, Euro 2008, it will be a decade since Collins's piece of artistry in Paris.

"I never would have believed then that we would have got so bad that we would be struggling to draw against Moldova," reflected Collins, a man who won 58 caps for Scotland and played in two major finals, Euro 96 and France 98, before bowing out on a high by helping to defeat England at Wembley in the second leg of the Euro 2000 play-off.

Berti Vogts, though, has not troubled the arch-builders. No triumphs, just tragedies. And one impostor. The Scottish FA had a right to believe they were getting something concrete for the £500,000 salary and four-year contract they gave the man who guided Germany to Euro 96 success. Instead, he has presided over one of the worst chapters in Scotland's international history.

His 32-month reign has seen just eight wins in 30 games. The last straw for the long-suffering Scotland fans came in Chisinau. Vogts actually sat among the Tartan Army - he was serving a Fifa dug-out ban for having a row with the referee during last weekend's Group Five defeat by Norway at Hampden Park - but by the end there was mutiny. He and his players ran a gauntlet of hate, and Vogts heard cries for his job to be given to Gordon Strachan.

"Scotland simply played from back to front in Chisinau," stated Collins. "We seemed simply to be knocking the ball long, in the hope of getting a flick and hoping to score. That does not win games."

"If you have limited talent, you have to make up for that in other departments. There was plenty of effort from the Scotland team, but it is wasted energy, because the players are running about chasing the ball instead of keeping it. The current squad are the best we have and the Scottish nation has to get behind them - but I think more can be dragged out of players with a good system and some organisation."

The man to do that, in Collins's eyes, is Strachan. The former Celtic, Monaco, Everton and Fulham midfielder watched the influence of Strachan in the Scotland dressing-room as the latter, then a veteran, helped his country qualify for Euro 92.

"Gordon has the best credentials," insisted Collins. "He has been a manager of teams with so-called lesser players who have shone. He has never been a cheque- book manager, which is good, because in international terms you cannot be one as Scotland manager. You have to work at moulding what you have.

"The next Scotland manager has to make them feel confident again, make them play with passion. He did very well with Southampton, getting them into the top six and the FA Cup final. It's not necessary for the next Scotland manager to be Scottish, but I think he does need to speak English, simply to tap into the players' hearts and minds."

Collins is not being insular when he raises language as a key issue about where the Vogts experiment went wrong. The Scot has now made his home in Monaco and conducts his daily life in French.

"I feel sorry for Berti Vogts," Collins said. "However, the big problem has always been communication. When he first came, his English was very limited. However, to be the manager of the Scotland team you have to get into their minds.

"That takes clear, concise messages. Management is a hard enough job to do in any language, never mind one that is not your own. You need to speak with passion, and I don't think that came across with Berti. It is a different job being in charge of Scotland compared with Real Madrid. You don't have to talk to those players, very few words will do - but with an average group of players, it requires a lot of talking to press all the right buttons to perform the way you want.

"I can speak French fluently. I learned quickly when I moved from Celtic to Monaco but it is still not quick enough for football, which is a spontaneous environment. Even now, it takes a few seconds for me to formulate a response correctly in French. You can't do that in a dressing room."

Nothing, though, is likely to be lost in translation when the SFA meet this week to discuss Vogts's future. The sack is the same in any language.