Scotland mulling candidates to replace Burley

The Scottish Football Association appears to have far more candidates for the role of national team coach than when it appointed George Burley in January last year.

Craig Levein, Jim Jefferies and former Scotland coach Walter Smith could all be in contention with the SFA, which fired Burley on Monday.

The 45-year-old Levein has spent the past three years with Dundee United, guiding the team from the lower half of the Scottish Premier League to fifth place in each of his two full seasons in charge.

Jefferies is the longest serving manager in the Scottish topflight, with almost eight years at Kilmarnock, while Smith may be available to return to the post he left in January 2007.

Smith quit as Scotland manager to rejoin former club Rangers and won the league title last season but his contract expires in January.

The SFA has said it will not rush to make an appointment and has set a February deadline for its decision.

Levein is rated as strongly as 9-4 favorite by British bookmakers for the role, with Smith and Jefferies next in the betting.

With so much uncertainty around the situation, not least over a salary which is reputedly far lower than that available at most leading clubs, several candidates are unwilling to appear overconfident or too eager for the role.

“I’ve been linked before with the position,” Jefferies said. “What I’ve said many a time when I get linked with a job, whether it’s the Scotland job or any other job: I never comment on that.

“The day I’ll comment on anything like that is the day I get asked, and then I’ll be able to say yes or no.”

The field was a lot thinner when Burley was appointed for an ill-fated spell that featured just three wins from 14 matches and failure to challenge for a spot at the 2010 World Cup.

The former Scotland defender had been the sole realistic candidate despite being in charge of a struggling Southampton side in the English second tier.

Burley’s spell in charge was blighted by problems off the field and poor performances on it.

Striker Kris Boyd refused to play while Burley was in charge, while his Rangers teammates Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor were banished from the squad indefinitely following a drinking binge and their subsequent obscene gestures while sat on the substitutes’ bench.

But former Scotland midfielder John Collins said Tuesday he is interested in what he called “a very tough job.”

The 41-year-old Collins has been out of work since a short spell in charge of Belgian club Charleroi, which ended last season.

“No one is going to come in with a magic wand and turn us into a fantastic football team,” Collins said. “There is a lot of work to be done and it will be one stage at a time.

“The role of any manager in the world is to take a group of players and make them better, make them perform at their peak.”