Taylor feels pressure grow for Vogts' scalp

Gloom envelops Celtic nations as World Cup hopes disappear
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The Independent Football

Homeward to think again. The words of "Flower of Scotland" took on a twisted new significance as Scotland beat a ruffled retreat from a 1-1 draw in Moldova, leaving Berti Vogts' 32-month reign as manager under seemingly intolerable pressure and Scotland's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup finals in Vogts' homeland all but extinguished.

The man with most thinking to do - with the exception of Vogts, though he appears to be in no mind to fall on his sword - is David Taylor, chief executive of the Scottish Football Association. Lest he retained any doubts as to the way feelings towards Vogts had hardened among Scotland's followers, midnight in Chisinau airport dispelled them.

Taylor and several colleagues from the the 11-man SFA board that will decide the former Germany coach's fate were about to fly home when they ran into some Tartan Army foot-soldiers. The officials were subjected to a barrage of comments, ranging from the polite "We want Vogts away" to the pointed "Berti, Berti, get tae f***" and demands for Gordon Strachan to be offered the poisoned chalice.

Four hours later, by a baggage carousel in Glasgow airport, Vogts made his usual round of the players as onlookers tried to gauge whether the hugs and handshakes meant "goodbye and thank you" or simply auf wiedersehn. Meanwhile, in a corner of the arrivals lounge, Taylor appeared to offer hope to the burgeoning anti-Vogts faction by admitting the need to "review our options".

The board is not scheduled to meet for three weeks, leaving Taylor and his colleagues open to accusations of fiddling while Scottish football's self-esteem goes up in smoke. "In the cold light of day, consideration should be given to [bringing the meeting forward]," he said. "What is important is that we conduct our discussions in private and there is no knee-jerk reaction to the situation."

If that appeared to be a tacit recognition of the case against Vogts, Taylor then backed away by returning to the well-worn theme that the production line of talent has long since ground to a halt. "The key question is: Would other managers get more out of the playing resources at our disposal?" he said.

"The short-term problems have been evident, with a lot of call-offs in the last few games, but the longer-term problems are also obvious. We reap what we sew. In the past few years we've been taking loads of foreign players into Scotland so we have to look at the whole situation.

"We will review our options. The great disappointment is in the fact that in these opening three group matches, we had two at home and one away to Moldova. Oddly enough, had we won in Chisinau, we would have been back in the race, given Wednesday's other results. It just shows the narrow line between success and failure. But the reality now is that we're considerable outsiders to qualify."

Taylor stressed Vogts' semi-respectable competitive record - five wins, including the first leg of a Euro 2004 play-off against the Netherlands, four draws, among them one with Germany, and four losses - but accepted that taking a solitary point from the country ranked 113th in the world was "not what we were looking for".

Did it put pressure on his own position? "This isn't about me. It's about the management of the team, and the decision lies with the board," he said. Though he added enigmatically: "But the consequences of the Moldova result may be more significant."

Vogts started the job early in 2002 with a dual ambition: to reach the play-offs for a place in Portugal for Euro 2004 and to do likewise in the World Cup campaign that followed. Despite a faltering start, when the Scots trailed 2-0 to the Faroe Islands before earning a draw, he succeeded in the first aim, albeit in the weakest qualifying group they have ever entered.

However, the cracks that were papered over after the Faroes débâcle and a 1-0 defeat in Lithuania re-emerged with a vengeance in the second leg of their tie with the Dutch last November. Scotland crashed 6-0, followed by a 4-0 defeat in a friendly against Wales and have started their present qualifying group in similar sorry fashion.

The dearth of top-class players was apparent from the start, but Vogts has seldom organised his resources as shrewdly as his predecessor, Craig Brown, frequently handing roles to players for which they are ill-suited. His grasp of English remains poor, prompting doubts about his ability to communicate tactical nuances in the heat of a game.

The kilted hordes remained loyal until they turned on a freezing night in Chisinau. Taylor, who once travelled with them as a fan, now faces a similar choice - with the odds growing against Vogts still being in charge for next month's Hampden Park friendly against Sweden.

Scottish succession favourites to succeed vogts

Gordon Strachan

The people's choice, judging by the songs in Moldova. The quirky, outspoken 47-year-old former Scotland captain, who flourished at Southampton, wants to manage Scotland one day, but previously backed off out of courtesy to Vogts.

Walter Smith

Worked in national set-up under Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson and Andy Roxburgh, but the 56-year-old is best known for managing Rangers to six of their nine-in-a-row titles. The Glaswegian has managed Everton and was No 2 at Old Trafford last season.

Craig Levein

The Hearts manager, 39, was a stylish Edinburgh defender and won 16 caps. Cut his managerial teeth at Cowdenbeath, Took the Scottish FA to court over a fine it imposed for comments about a referee, but is now a dark horse for the top job.