Scottish Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan has told BBC Scotland that it is “disrespectful” to discuss national manager Gordon Strachan’s position just three games into a qualifying campaign.
Following the recent draw at home against Lithuania and the 3-0 defeat by Slovakia, Strachan was considering his future but quickly decided he wanted to continue in the role.
A defeat in their next game against England would leave Scotland struggling to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, but Regan says all the focus is on trying to win that match and revive the campaign.
Q: What were your thoughts when Gordon Strachan made it clear he wanted to continue as Scotland manager?
A: We had a discussion at the end of the last campaign. The fans made it clear they were backing Gordon and I think he was pleased to get that reassurance. We had a discussion about whether it was right for him to lead another campaign and he was absolutely up for it, the board were fully supportive of Gordon taking the team forward. We felt we’d made considerable progress and, for that reason, he’s led us into this campaign. We’d like to be in a better position, but there’s still 21 points to play for and we’ll be determined to get as many as those as we can.
Q: The Tartan Army were clearly behind Gordon Strachan at that point (after the final Euro 2016 qualifier against Gibraltar in Faro). Do you sense there has been a lessening of that support in recent months?
A: Football is that kind of game. It’s all about performances. You see that week in, week out. If teams perform, they have support. If they don’t, they have criticism. Scotland and Gordon are no different. He knows the fans crave success. We need to get a result against England and get our campaign back on track. We’re only one point off the play-off place, we’re three points off the top and, if Gordon goes down to Wembley and gets a result, the fans will be 100% behind him, I’m confident of that.
Q: That’s a big ‘if’, pinning our hopes on reviving the campaign by going down to Wembley to beat the top seeds.
A: No manager is going to go into a game believing he’s going to get beat. No team wants to prepare for one of the biggest games in the campaign with a negative mindset, so Gordon and the squad will be going into that game believing we can get a result. It happened in 1999. There’s no reason why it can’t happen again.
Q: You say there was a discussion after the last campaign. Was there a discussion after the Slovakia game about whether the manager should continue?
A: We had a discussion – not about whether he’d continue, Gordon’s under contract. We had a discussion about the performance – not just about Slovakia but about the first three games. Nobody was more disappointed than Gordon. He felt we should have been in a better place after three games. Results have gone our way, in many ways, in other games. As we’ve seen with the performances of Slovenia and Lithuania, anyone can take points off anyone else in this group. It’s up to us now to go and get a result and get our campaign back on the rails.
Q: So there was no board-level discussion as to whether Gordon Strachan should be allowed to continue as Scotland manager?
A: Not at all. Gordon’s under contract. It’s all about the next game.
Q: As you know, contracts within football don’t always mean a lot. In adversity, managers’ contracts are often terminated one way or another. That wasn’t a possibility?
A: We’ve played three games in this campaign. There are 21 points still to play for. It’s absolutely about getting the campaign back on track, starting at Wembley on 11 November.
Q: Given the poor end to the last campaign and the questionable start to this one, what evidence is there that Gordon Strachan is still the best man for the job?
A: It’s all about results ultimately. Results will determine our success and what happens as far as Scotland is concerned.
Q: Do you and the board have to plan for what might happen should we lose to England? Is there a succession plan in place?
A: I think I’ve answered that with my previous answer.
Q: You haven’t answered whether you have a plan in place should Gordon Strachan decide to leave. Would you take it out of his hands?
A: I’ve answered on the basis there are still 21 points to play for. We’re only three games in to the campaign. If we win at Wembley, we’re right back in the mix and I think it’s a little bit disrespectful to be talking about a manager’s contract so early in a campaign.
Q: To what extent does his future depend on the outcome of the England game?
A: We’re not talking about the manager’s future here. We’re talking about going to Wembley and getting a result in an incredibly important match for Scotland.
Q: Do you expect Scotland still to at least reach the play-offs?
A: Everybody in Scotland expects Scotland to do the best they possibly can and get to the highest place in the group they possibly can. Absolutely that’s the vision for the manager and the vision I’m sure every fan in Scotland would like to see materialise.
Q: But do you expect that?
A: I don’t think you can expect anything. You’ve got to go into every game, do your best and try to achieve the best outcome for the team you possibly can.
Q: Given the continued failure to get to a major tournament, the under-21s are not achieving, the failed appointment of Brian McClair (as performance director), do you question your own position, whether you’re the right man to continue to lead the SFA?
A: Absolutely not. It’s all about trying to do the best for the Scottish FA. We have a strategy in place that remains our priority and we’re trying to lead the team forward in every single aspect, not just on the pitch but off it as well.