Managing Scotland: Vogts, Brown, Levein & others share tales of the job

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Scotland bosses

For supporters, it’s the hope that kills you. For managers, it’s what drives you to take the job in the first place.

The dream that you could be the person to end a nation’s hurt. An aspiration of stepping on to a plane to a major tournament, hoping you won’t come home too soon.

Here, we delve into the BBC Scotland archive and speak to some familiar faces to find out some tales of their time as Scotland boss.

Tommy Docherty, 1971-72

Games in charge: 12. Win percentage: 58.33%. Tournaments reached: 0

“Hugh [Nelson, Scottish FA chief executive] phoned me and he said: ‘Would you be interested in becoming the manager of Scotland? Come to the Esquire House hotel at Anniesland Cross, we’ll have a spot of lunch and discuss it.’

“So I went along and after five minutes, no more, the job was mine – £7,000 a year and a Rover car. It was as simple as that, the quickest appointment ever.”

Craig Brown, 1993-2001

Games in charge: 71. Win percentage: 45.07%. Tournaments reached: 2

Getting things right on the pitch is key to many successful teams. However, as Brown explains, it’s important to strike the right note off it…

“All music in the dressing room was team music, not individual. We had Tosh McKinlay and John Spencer in charge – Spenny was in charge of everything. He could talk for Scotland as well as play. I had to shut him up. He used to talk, talk, talk about how wonderful he was. I said: ‘Look, Spenny, you’ve had two visits to the toilet at Hampden and you think you’re a footballer, so shut up.’

It’s a very good thing to have a bit of humour about the place. To give it and take it as a player and manager. No insubordination of any kind, but good humour. Spenny would mimic me giving my team talk.

“I had standards about how the players dressed. I made sure their jersey was tucked in, their stockings were up and had no tape around them. When I was assistant to Andy Roxburgh, Steve Nicol from Liverpool was in the squad. I saw this tape around his Scotland socks, it was quite unsightly. I said: ‘Stevie, that’s unacceptable.’ He said: ‘Well, they let us do it at Liverpool.’ And I told him: ‘Stevie, this isn’t a pub team like Liverpool, this is Scotland.’

Craig Brown guided Scotland to a European Championship and a World Cup

Berti Vogts, 2002-04

Games in charge: 32. Win percentage: 28.13%. Tournaments reached: 0

The German’s tenure was written off as a disaster by some, partly because of caps being handed out to a host of new players. However, speaking in 2014, Vogts recalls one trip to Merseyside to speak to Wayne Rooney…

“Yes. I was there. It came from Sir Alex [Ferguson, then Manchester United manager] and he told me Wayne’s grandma was Scottish. So I drove down to Everton with David Moyes the coach. I asked [Rooney] the question and he told me: ‘I’m English! I’m English!’

“I then met him three years ago with Sir Alex and [Rooney] came up to me and said: ‘I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!’ I said to him: ‘No, you made the right decision.’ He knows it.”

Berti Vogts (left) introduced players including James McFadden (right) and Darren Fletcher into the Scotland squad

Walter Smith, 2004-07

Games in charge: 16. Win percentage: 28.13%. Tournaments reached: 0

During Smith’s time in charge of Scotland, former Celtic manager Tommy Burns would stay on as his assistant. Here, he explains what he could bring to the camp…

“What I didn’t know at the time – [Ally] McCoist has a bit of chaos around him in terms of time-keeping. He’s not the most organised person – and Tommy was exactly the same.

“I used to say to them: ‘Right, we’ll have a meeting at Hampden at three o’clock.’ And it started at four. They’d bring in cream cakes and cups of tea.

“We were in Norway and had very little chance of qualifying for that World Cup. If results at other places had gone remarkably well for us we maybe had a chance, but as it transpired that didn’t happen.

“When I was doing the team talk, I did it on the morning of the game, named the team, and went into it. I thought I would give the boys the last kind of rousing speech. I’m doing my full Churchillian bit about the World Cup. I happen to look down and there in the front row is my staff, and my assistant manager [Burns] was sleeping. So I stopped, and obviously the silence caused him to stir.

“I said to him: ‘Well, if that’s the effect the talk’s had on you, God knows what it will be like on the rest of them.’ So I just finished there and then. We did manage to get a good result. But that was Tommy, he was a fantastic character.”

Tommy Burns, left, joined Ally McCoist, right, in Walter Smith’s Scotland staff

Craig Levein, 2009-12

Games in charge: 24. Win percentage: 41.67%. Tournaments reached: 0

“I was quite fortunate at the time I was offered the Scotland job because I had two pending suspensions from my behaviour as manager at Dundee United and funnily enough they both disappeared when that job offer came.

“It was quite a difficult situation because at Dundee United things were going really well. I loved the club, the supporters were fantastic and we had a really good side. But when you get offered the national team job it’s extremely difficult to turn that down. Looking back on it, I maybe would have turned it down because I found it a real struggle to cope.

“At United, I was director of football as well as the manager. I spent all of my time either at the academy or at the club. To go from that into basically sitting in a car driving up and down to England, stopping at McDonald’s or Greggs every day, and putting on a stone at least. And not having that contact time on the training field with players where you get time to develop relationships I found that a real struggle.”

When asked for his high point, Levein replied: “When I got the sack, I think.

“It was misery at that time. I really did struggle. I was at that stage of my career where I had loads of energy and I wanted to do so much more and taking the international job was such a fantastic thing.”

Craig Levein was Scotland manager from 2009 to 2012

Can you name the previous 10 Scotland bosses before Steve Clarke?

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