Smith emerges as front-runner in race to take Scotland job

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The Independent Football

Walter Smith is expected to be appointed as the new Scotland manager on Thursday.

Walter Smith is expected to be appointed as the new Scotland manager on Thursday.

The Scottish Football Association tried to play down speculation that Smith had been offered the job yesterday, but his appointment would come as little surprise.

The 56-year-old has been widely touted as the man to replace Berti Vogts ever since the embarrassing 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw in Moldova signalled the end of the German's two-and-a-half-year reign.

Vogts eventually resigned earlier this month, triggering the search for a new national coach.

The SFA chief executive, David Taylor, and office-bearers interviewed Smith earlier this month, although the former Rangers and Everton manager expressed surprise that details of the meeting had leaked.

Tommy Burns, Vogts' assistant, took charge of Scotland's last game, a 4-1 friendly defeat by Sweden at Easter Road on 17 November. Burns was reportedly interested in taking the job on a permanent basis.

With a question mark hanging over Smith's long-time ally, Archie Knox - who has been linked with a move to Livingston - there may still be a role for the former Celtic manager.

But the SFA were remaining tight-lipped on the increasing speculation that Smith had been offered the job. An SFA spokesman said: "We have got no comment to make on any speculation about the national team manager's position."

But Vogts' predecessor, Craig Brown, believes the appointment of Smith would be welcomed by the vast majority of fans in Scotland.

Smith took Rangers to within a whisker of the European Cup final, and also guided the Govan club to a record-equalling nine-in-a-row title charge. Brown said: "I will be delighted if he accepts the job and I think most people in Scotland would feel the same way.

"We know his record with Glasgow Rangers and at Everton in difficult circumstances. So he has an excellent reputation both as a coach and a gentleman in Scotland and beyond. I am sure he will be a very popular appointment. Walter's handling of players is superb and his man-management is par excellence. Obviously, his tactical nous is very, very good. I don't think anyone can identify a weakness in Walter Smith's management technique and style."