18 November 2009 ~ "I cannot condone what I saw in Cardiff." Damning words indeed, but when they tumble from the lips of Craig Brown, widely respected as one of football's gentlemen and a staunch supporter of the Scotland set-up even in the most dire of circumstances, then surely you know that "your jaiket is on a shoogly peg". To compound this, we had the Tartan Army causing Sky's production engineers all manner of "sound issues" as the second half in Cardiff was played out to a background of "Burley, Burley... Get Tae Fuck".
Coming from a group of supporters criticised for being more interested in self-publicity for their antics and blindly celebrating one tragic defeat after another, this was a low point for the Scottish national team – although not quite as subterranean as almost all of Berti Vogts's carnage-filled reign. In fact the hapless Burley had not yet been officially "relieved of his duties" as Graeme Souness was being quizzed about the potential vacancy. Souness, who had lost out to Burley 22 months previously, had a landmark moment. For the first time in his football career, he was openly running away from the challenge. "Not even Arsène Wenger nor Alex Ferguson could do any better than George with this set of players... they are a limited bunch."
So with the hardest man to have ever represented his country fleeing in fright from the prospect of being Scotland manager, who are the likely candidates to take over? The squad is wafer-thin in terms of quality but has shown some promise despite the recent malaise. In fact, the biggest challenge is arguably the nation's unrealistic demands – Scotland finished third in a group containing Holland and Norway, which is about right given the quality of player available. Perhaps all hope is not lost but cometh the hour, cometh the man:
John Collins has announced his interest, especially as he is available to work since leaving Charleroi in Belgium after less than a season. Winning a trophy for Hibs was some feat, but it was the League Cup. A gifted player, with intelligence that is often seen as aloofness. A Tartan Glenn Hoddle?
Walter Smith. Seems set to leave the fiscal car crash that is Glasgow Rangers plc, either in January when his contract expires or in the summer if nobody can be persuaded to take over that particular time bomb. The Scotland job (Part 2) may be just the kind of quiet respite the nation's number one cardigan wearer was looking for.
Jim Jeffries is still surfing off the success of his Hearts teams almost a decade ago. Grim survival battles at Kilmarnock are not likely to set the pulses racing amongst the Scottish public. Jim has a PhD in being dour and with a broke SFA likely to try to generate a bit of box office enthusiasm this would be a strange appointment.
Craig Levein. Regarded by most observers as the outstanding young manager in Scotland. His teams try to play decent football and have had a moderate amount of success. Unfortunately, Craig has clashed with the SFA and SPL on several occasions as he dared to publicly question the bias of referees towards the Old Firm. This might just rule him out.
Craig Brown. "I would never let my country down," said the genial ex-supremo, clearly forgetting some hideous performances against the Faroes. You could see a case for him handling things on a temporary basis until the best candidate was found, before it was back to providing impartial Championship commentary on Five Live.
Billy Stark. The former St Mirren and Aberdeen star learnt his skills under the tutelage of a certain A Ferguson. He's a smart chap and his Scotland U-21 team have been performing well. Wouldn't rock the SFA boat, and is popular with the media. An outside bet?
Billy Davies. Angry fans like the idea of an aggressive wee Scot "firing the boys up" before laying waste to a visiting Moldova team. Outsider.
Jimmy Calderwood was recently sacked as Aberdeen boss after five years and the perma-tanned Bernie Winters lookalike has put himself forward with the usual shy, retiring approach. "Any Scotsman would be interested" – apart from Souness, Dalglish, Moyes and Ferguson. A good European knowledge from his time in Holland was demonstrated during some of Aberdeen's European results in recent years, although there was the odd calamitous howler. Actually, he sounds custom built for the job.
However, if the SFA are looking for an attention-grabbing appointment, someone who works the media well, who has a good knowledge of British and European football, and who knows a thing or six about rallying the masses of northern Britain, perhaps Kevin Keegan would be an inspired choice. KK has been living in Scotland for a while now and is probably very aware of just how bad Scotland are. Blind optimism is the only way forward, and this guy is the best proponent of this since a certain Ally McLeod. "We're on the march wi' Keegan's Army... " I need a lie down. Fraser Kirkwood