Next Scotland Manager

It is widely expected that Gordon Strachan has managed his last match.  A heavy defeat to England hot on the heels of poor performances against Slovakia and Lithuania will surely mark an end to Wee Gordon’s time in charge of the Tartan Army.

Many obituaries will be written in the coming days highlighting where it went wrong for the former Middlesbrough, Celtic, Southampton and Coventry boss.  I have previously written on one of Strachan’s possible failings using statistics to question his squad selection practices –

This time I statistically profile the typical international manager, before considering the probability of those already priced by the bookies as being the likely contenders to become the next Scotland manager.  

Typical Manager Profile

In the FIFA World Rankings Scotland are currently positioned 57th.  I have studied the managers of nations ranked within the world’s top 60 to identify a typical profile of an international manager.


Nationality + International Experience

Only 52.45% manage the country of their nationality, although the stats are slightly skewed by teams in Africa and the Americas where there is a culture of employing international managers with a strong regional reputation.  When considering only Europe, 71.87% of managers represent the country of their nationality.

6 Germans manage top 60 nations, which hopefully does not indicate a return of Berti McVogts!

One seemingly important employment attribute for an international manager is that they have played for their country as 37 managers (60.65%) received full international caps compared to 21 managers (34.42%) that have never played international football.  Of those capped, the average number of appearances is 40.

A large majority of managers (80.32%) have management experience beyond the nation they coach.  Only 12 managers have never coached outwith their nation’s borders.


Age + Work Experience

The average age of an international manager is 56.59 years, and in Europe he is only slightly younger at 55.65 years.

The typical manager has 20.19 years of managerial experience and has taken charge of 9 clubs or nations.  

Across the world it is common for a current international manager to have worked before as coach of a national team, with 28 managers (45.90%) citing previous national team coaching on their CV.  This includes the likes of Gareth Southgate and Julen Lopetegui who have been groomed at youth levels.


Successful managerial track record

Most managers (73.77%) have tasted success when managing at club level.  The most successful club managers are Martin O’Neill and Ljubisa Tumbakovic (13 trophies).

In Europe, only 1 manager – Fatih Terim – has lifted a continental club title.


Next Scotland Manager

Whilst there will be other factors involved in recruiting Strachan’s successor, such as how the candidate interviews or their availability and willingness to become Scotland’s 25th national team manager, using the aforementioned statistics it is possible to identify the haves from the have nots on the bookies long list of potential candidates.

In addition to the managers backgrounds I have explored their managerial track records by analysing the honours won so far during their managerial careers, the win rate at their 3 most recent jobs, and establish the highest level that they have worked at.

I discuss some of the more interesting names linked with the job.


Alex McLeish

Statistically Alex McLeish is Scotland’s most successful ever manager, and the bookies believe he is the man lying in wait to replace Strachan.

“After leaving Rangers [in 2006], I thought I’d maybe get the chance to go to England,” explained McLeish to the BBC in 2014.  “Somebody asked me, ‘Would you fancy the Scotland job’, and I said, ‘I don’t think so at this stage of my career’.  Then I got the call and, wow, that was a whole different ball game, it changed everything. Now it was deadly serious and it was just something I could not turn down.”

“Wild horses couldn’t have dragged me away from the Scotland job if we’d qualified,” McLeish added. “I would have put my managerial club career in England on hold for what I would have hoped would have been a successful campaign for Scotland, and maybe even longer than that.  But there were overtures again. The only thing that made me leave Scotland was niggling thoughts in my head that I’ve got to wait eight months for the next competitive game.”

McLeish famously turned his back on Scotland after only 10 games, claiming that he relished the challenge of club football in England.  Now aged 57 McLeish fits the typical profile of an international manager and would bring a strong track record to a prospective job interview.


David Moyes

The man that replaced Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United is not only the 2nd favourite to take over as Scotland coach, but he is also the established favourite to be the next manager to leave his job in the English Premier League.

The years since arriving at Old Trafford have not been kind to Moyes and there has been a noticeable decline in his managerial performance with a low 28.57% win rate in charge of Real Sociedad standing next to a 21.43% win rate so far in charge of Sunderland.

Moyes said last month, “It’s something I’d never say never to in the future, never say never to managing in Scotland. It’s always something which I would definitely keep open.”

It could well be the case that Moyes will soon be on the lookout for a new job.  However, his recent record combined with no international playing experience and no time spent managing in Scotland suggest that there are better contenders out there.


Derek McInnes

The popular Aberdeen manager is the 14/1 5th favourite to become the next Scotland manager.

I have written previously that I believe his days at Pittodrie may come to an end before long – – but I do not believe that Hampden will be his new home.

As McLeish explained a 40-something manager is more likely to aspire to a serious club job rather than international football.

I believe he would be a good national team manager, but McInnes will fancy a crack at England or even a resurgent Rangers before considering national duty.


Tommy Wright

The 53 year old Northern Irishman won the award for best SPFL manager last season and continues to pester teams that his St. Johnstone should not be close to on paper.

When looking at his statistics and achievements it is possible to make a strong case for Wright.  He has 31 caps for Northern Ireland, he is in the right age bracket and has won silverware in more than one country.

Unfortunately for Tommy Wright there remains something unfashionable about him and there are is greater support for his in-vogue compatriot Michael O’Neill to be given the keys to Hampden Park.

In terms of the options at the shorter end of the bookies list it is Wright who I believe gives the second best potential behind McLeish.


Walter Smith

An intriguing short term option could be a return to the Scotland set up for Walter Smith.  The 68 year old ex-Rangers legend did a fine job between 2004 and 2007.

There is an increasing trend in international football to groom a successor from an internal system, with Joachim Low, Heimir Hallgrimson, Gareth Southgate and Julen Lopetegui all ascending to the manager position of their respective nations having either previously assisted the senior team or coached a younger national age group.

Smith has experience of fulfilling this role having held the hand of Ally McCoist at Rangers, who never really had it in him to manage the Ibrox club.

Interestingly the bookies list features several youthful names such as Steven Pressley, Davie Weir or John Collins, none of which would be popular options as Scotland manager today, but with a bit of guidance from Smith could step into the position when the time comes.


Michael O’Neill

The pundits choice is doing wonders with Northern Ireland and is well acquainted with Scottish football.  The former Aberdeen and Dundee United man resides in Edinburgh and cut his teeth managing in Scotland’s lower divisions with Brechin City.

Since stepping out of Glebe Park O’Neill has done well at Shamrock Rovers before doing wonders with Northern Ireland transforming a team, including some of the SPL’s lesser lights, into a strong competitive team.

I don’t think anybody doubts that O’Neill would be a great pick for Scotland but he is at that stage in his life that McLeish was in 10 years ago and with his stock high the Scotland job does not qualify as a step up the ladder.

His reputation spreads beyond Edinburgh and his next port of call will more likely be in club football.


The Rest

3rd favourite Paul Lambert started a new job at Wolverhampton one week ago that rules him out.

Steve Clarke, the bookies 4th most likely pick, has managed only 113 career matches – a tiny total since his first managerial post in 1999.

Alan Irvine has no positive record as a manager.

The legendary 74 year old Sir Alex Ferguson should be allowed to enjoy his retirement.

Alex Neill and Gary Caldwell have both had bright starts to their managerial careers, but are young and comparatively inexperienced.

Joe Jordan has not been in management since a Caretaker role at Portsmouth in 2008, and has not led a team in his own right since 1997!

Ricky Sbragia and Scott Gemmell have been working with Scotland’s youth teams recently, but at that level it is not necessarily a results business.

Jim McIntyre is a little on the young side and his Ross County team have struggled this season.

Gary McAllister, Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish have been out of management for too long.

Billy Davies has a weak record, and a volatile reputation.

Billy Stark is solid but unspectacular.

Mark Wotte has a long term contract with the Moroccan FA.

There is no reason why Martin O’Neill would view the Scotland job as a step up.

Peterhead manager Jim McInally is a 33/1 shot.  Surely not.

Ally McCoist, as a Rangers supporting friend told me, “has probably realised he’s better at being on the telly.”

Craig Levein won’t go back.

Barry Ferguson is building experience, has baggage from his playing career and is currently in the 3rd Division.

Harry Redknapp hopefully won’t happen.

Neil Lennon is too controversial.  I doubt there is a day when he is the Scotland manager.

Lars Lagerback has retired, and has no history of managing in Scotland.

Dick Advocaat won’t want it.  It’s a long time since he had links to Scotland.

Mark McGhee is the most experienced man in the SPFL but he is tainted by association with Strachan.

Alan Hansen…no.


Statistical Spreadsheets


Current International Managers Experience


Current International Managers Experience (Europe Only)


Scottish Manager Background


Scottish Manager Achievements






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