SFA starts Scotland job talks

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The Independent Football

The Scottish Football Association yesterday made formal requests to speak to Motherwell's Mark McGhee, Southampton's George Burley and Celtic's Tommy Burns about the Scotland managerial vacancy.

The SFA's chief executive, Gordon Smith, wants Alex McLeish's successor confirmed, if not in place, by the end of the month. He hopes to speak to McGhee, Burley and Burns, as well as the two unemployed candidates on the five-man shortlist, Graeme Souness and Billy Davies, within a week.

McGhee, 50, was the initial front-runner and has received the public endorsement of McLeish, Gordon Strachan and others. The SFA was keen to approach McGhee, but with the death of Motherwell's captain, Phil O'Donnell, on 29 December, all parties have been understandably sensitive about their next move. Burns became the bookmakers' favourite, but McGhee is still very much in the picture.

McGhee wants the job and the issue of leaving Motherwell in a time of crisis could be solved by allowing him to start with Scotland full-time in the summer.

Burley, 51, is understood to be championed by the SFA's president, George Peat, on the back of his short but impressive stint at Heart of Midlothian in 2005. With no firm guarantees of stability at St Mary's, he would welcome options.

Burns, 51, Celtic's youth coach and and an assistant to Strachan, was overlooked last time and would jump at the job. Neither Souness, nor Davies have clubs to be compensated, but then both are unemployed after failure.