Smith forced to choose between Scotland and Rangers

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The Independent Football

The Scottish Football Association yesterday refused Rangers permission to talk to Walter Smith about becoming Paul Le Guen's successor at Ibrox, leaving Smith with a decision whether to resign as the Scotland manager, or propose an increasingly unlikely compromise to do both jobs. Rangers want Smith and Ally McCoist as their new managerial team and had hoped the SFA might free Smith from his SFA contract, which has 18 months to run.

But after Smith met the SFA's four-man board at Hampden Park yesterday, the association's chief executive, David Taylor, said: "Walter Smith asked to be relieved of his contract as national team manager for Scotland. This request has been refused and Rangers football club have been advised accordingly ... I think it says it all."

The rebuttal was not unexpected by Rangers, who hope Smith will now resign as the Scotland manager. Rangers would then have to pay the SFA compensation. "Walter understands the position the SFA is taking," Taylor said. "There is no action to be taken by the SFA, it is a matter for Walter or Rangers."

McCoist, part of Smith's Scotland set-up, is not under contract to the SFA but is an unlikely candidate for sole charge at Ibrox, never having held any managerial position. Taylor said the option of Smith doing both jobs "is not attractive to the SFA". He added: "We have a full-time manager. Walter is under contract to the SFA at the moment. If that is to change then we will be looking for a full-time manager."

Scotland head their Euro 2008 group ahead of the next crucial fixtures in March, against Georgia at home, and away to Italy. If Smith leaves, candidates to replace him will include Alex McLeish, Le Guen's predecessor at Rangers.