Gordon Strachan tells rookie managers: 'Get ready to think you're useless'

Scotland manager was speaking before friendly against Northern Ireland

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The Independent Football

Gordon Strachan was honest in his assessment of what faces any up-and-coming Scottish managers, telling them to “get ready for a lot of long nights where you think you are useless”.

The Scotland manager was speaking before today’s friendly against Northern Ireland and Sunday’s European Championship qualifier against the bottom side in Group D, Gibraltar, both at Hampden Park.

Watching Strachan’s earlier training session were managers such as Dundee’s Paul Hartley, Alan Archibald of Partick Thistle, Hearts’ Robbie Neilson and the Norwich City manager, Alex Neil, who are part of a group undertaking their Uefa Pro Licence.

Asked if he had any advice for this next generation, the former Celtic, Southampton and Coventry manager did not hold back.

“Get ready for a lot of long nights where you think you are useless,” he said. “I’m serious. And you have to deal with that. There are a lot of players who I worked with who are now managers who phone me up.

“Now I know what Howard Wilkinson [his former manager at Leeds United] felt like. I used to phone him a lot when I was in trouble. As a matter of fact, every time he picked up the phone he used to say, ‘What’s up now?’

“So we are always there to give advice and we are the only people who can give advice to managers, because nobody else knows what it feels like.

He added: “It is great to see Neil and Neilson doing terrifically well, showing that we have top coaches.” But he warned: “You can only be called a good manager or a great manager, like Sir Alex Ferguson and those people, if you can hang in there for a long, long time. But it is a good way to learn. The best way to learn is being a manager and making mistakes.”

This weekend Strachan will look to build on seven points from four qualifiers, which have taken them into third place in Group D. “Looking at the intensity of the training, you get to the stage where you think, ‘Calm down a bit’,” he said. “People are telling me they are all tired, people are telling me they have played 40 games and they are running about non-stop.

“You actually have to stop the training because if you let them go on they would continue on another half-hour. If we can take what we had this morning into tomorrow, then I will be more than happy. I don’t think they have even thought about this as a friendly. There will be an intensity to the game.”

Strachan declared himself impressed with Bournemouth forward Matt Ritchie, who has been called up for the first time. “His passing, crossing and shooting was good and he blended terrifically well with the other players,” he said. “There is lots to like about him, playing with the best footballing side in the Championship, Bournemouth.”

Meanwhile, one of the most exciting prospects in the Scotland age group set-up, Real Madrid’s Jack Harper, has been turned away by the Under-19s as they aim to secure a place at this summer’s European Championship in Greece.

The 19-year-old forward signed a five-year deal with the Spanish giants and has scored three goals for the club in this season’s Uefa Youth League. But the Scotland Under-19 coach, Ricky Sbragia, said yesterday that Harper was a “luxury” player that his team “can’t carry”, and left him out of the 18-man squad for matches against Austria, Italy and Croatia.

“At Real Madrid, Jack can float all over the place, which he does. But with us he has to be more disciplined,” said Sbragia. “He’s an exceptionally gifted lad but we can’t carry him. He can be a luxury sometimes.

“In some cases, if it’s going well, he can be a good luxury. And listen, Jack’s time will come. I’ve gone for a physical side and runners. Hopefully, I’m proved right in Austria. It’s purely a tactical decision.”