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George Burley: My dream is to get to the World Cup

Graham Spiers

George Burley was unveiled as the new Scotland manager yesterday, having finally agreed a 4½ year deal that the SFA hopes will mean Burley leading Scotland through two successful qualifying campaigns for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

The length of the contract is both a surprise and a signal of optimism from the SFA, which clearly believes it has got the right man. The duration of the deal is all the more intriguing given that, since Burley left Ipswich Town six years ago, he has rarely been at any one club for long.

Following Walter Smith’s two-year Scotland reign before being lured to Rangers, and Alex McLeish’s almost indecently-brief ten months in the job, the SFA clearly wants some kind of longer-term commitment to apply.

Burley has had a turbulent time over the past three years, but appeared nothing but thrilled with his new job when he was unveiled at Hampden Park. He will earn £375,000 a year, a sign of the SFA’s financial constraints.

“It is a huge honour for me,” he said. “It is something you would always want to do but never imagine that you would get the opportunity. There is a great standard of manager in Scotland right now so for me to get this job is a real honour. It’s something I’m really looking forward to. Right now I’m tingling with excitement over it.

“I feel I’m ready. I’ve been 16 years in management, so the time is right. I have a vision for Scotland, and the dream is to qualify for the next World Cup.

“I’m up for the challenge. I think I’ve had a fair degree of success in my club career, such as taking Ipswich into the Premiership and then into Europe. That is something I’m quite proud of. I think I’ve done well at clubs where there wasn’t so much money to spend. I believe my strength is man-management.”

For Gordon Smith, the SFA chief executive, there is little doubt that the Burley appointment is both a piece of daring as well as a risk.

In choosing Burley ahead of men like Graeme Souness and Mark McGhee, Smith has opted for a manager with a degree of success behind him, but also for someone who has attracted unwanted gossip throughout his managerial career. In his departures from both Derby County and Heart of Midlothian, Burley was reported to have aggrieved his club’s directors with his conduct, and Smith must hope that the scenario isn’t repeated at the SFA.

Recently, Burley has even been forced to quell rumours that he had a problem with alcohol. Yesterday, asked about the rumours surrounding his departure from Hearts in 2005, he was a little cryptic in his reply.

“With that type of thing, you just want to move on,” he said. “It’s like any of these things – you just get annoyed at these so-called ‘rumours’. That’s why you move on. In football people will always judge you. At Hearts I just wanted to move to another job.”

Smith and the SFA have certainly made a brave decision, and rightly point to Burley’s CV as being among the best of the candidates they interviewed. Asked why he had chosen Burley ahead of men like Souness and McGhee, Gordon Smith was quite emphatic.

“George’s standards are very good in terms of what he has achieved in the game,” the chief executive said.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people in football, including senior players, and there were aspects about George which meant he won through. To do what George did at Ipswich, for example, is an illustration of his qualities.”

Burley’s immediate task is clear – to restore Scotland’s familiarity with the glamour and excitement of an international finals. It is ten years since the Scots last tasted such a scene and some have worried that Scotland are now afflicted with “Hungary Syndrome”, after the fate of the once-magical eastern European country that plummeted into anonymity in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I feel confident, I don’t feel the pressure,” Burley said. “Everyone’s got their own view on this – some people may be surprised at my appointment, and I certainly won’t be everybody’s choice. But I’m here, so let’s push on and try to get to the next World Cup. That’s my goal.”

Burley’s first match in charge will be a friendly against Croatia, a team that will be afforded a warm welcome in Glasgow, on March 26. The SFA also confirmed that Scotland may play England in a friendly at the end of May.

Taken from

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