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Craig Levein lands Scotland manager's job to wide acclaim

• Barry Ferguson leads tributes to appointment
• Scotland need someone to shake the place up'

* Ewan Murray
*, Tuesday 22 December 2009 21.04 GMT
* Article history

Craig Levein Craig Levein takes over as Scotland's manager following a successful spell at Dundee United. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images

The strongest endorsement of Craig Levein's appointment as the Scotland manager tonight arrived from a source as unlikely as it was noteworthy.

Barry Ferguson, banished into international exile following the Boozegate controversy earlier this year, credited the Scottish Football Association for making a "great" move for Levein.

A day of intense negotiations and legal machinations relating to contracts was only missing the confirmation that the 45-year-old Levein has been persuaded to swap his role at Dundee United for the task of leading the Scots to their first major finals since 1998. It is understood Levein had offered to fill the vacancy created by George Burley's sacking to the SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, and his appointment is expected to be confirmed tomorrow morning.

One of the first questions Levein will be asked when he meets the media – weather permitting, tomorrow afternoon – is whether Ferguson and his former Rangers team-mate Allan McGregor will be invited back to the Scotland fold. The striker Kris Boyd, moreover, said he would not play for Scotland during Burley's tenure.

"It is a great appointment," said Ferguson, a former Scotland captain who has 45 caps. "He is a manager whom I have a lot of respect for. I have met him a few times and he is a good guy; Scotland needed someone like Craig Levein to come in and shake the whole place up."

"It's a big loss for Dundee United," Ferguson added. "He's done a great job up there."

On the subject of an international return, the Birmingham City midfielder said: "It is something I would really need to consider. Never once did I quit Scotland. It was Scotland who told me I was finished."

Over to Levein, then, who was the first and only choice of the SFA's executive board. They made their move last Wednesday afternoon, when the approach was made to the Tannadice club. Stephen Thompson, the United chairman, offered a rare discontented voice in the affair by claiming his club has been treated "shabbily" by the SFA with regard to compensation for the manager.

"We are a member club and deserve to be treated with a bit more respect in this matter," added Thompson. "We have not received any offer of compensation by fax, email, letter or anything else," Thompson told BBC Scotland. It is understood, though, that the payment is contractually set at £260,000. United could move for the Raith Rovers manager, John McGlynn, as Levein's replacement with Derek McInnes of St Johnstone also in the frame. Such matters will be discussed at a United board meeting this morning.

Gordon Strachan, the former Celtic manager and Scotland international, hailed Levein's appointment as the correct one, if in simple terms. "[Because] he is good at his job," Strachan said.

Alex McLeish, one of Levein's predecessors, was slightly more effusive in his praise. "I think he will be able to do that job," said McLeish. "It is a tough task ahead but Craig has got the coaching credentials and skills and he has got the man-management skills to take over and hopefully get the nation on its feet again."

Levein's influence at United, where he has spent the last three years, has been almost universally acclaimed. The club captain, Lee Wilkie, admitted regret that the manager has left but stressed Levein will have no problems within his new surroundings.

"He is such a good manager that I fully expect him to do well for Scotland," said Wilkie. "It is bad news for us but great news for the country because he can turn things around.

"I understand why they [the SFA] have gone for him because he is one of the best around, anywhere. He is great tactically and knows how to get the best out of players."

John Hughes, the Hibernian manager, said he spoke for all Scottish managers in welcoming Levein's Scotland appointment. "He certainly gets my blessing," said Hughes. "He would be welcome to come in here and watch the training. I think most managers would allow that; not just in Scotland but at great clubs throughout the world."

Levein's promising playing career was blighted and ultimately cut short by a serious knee injury. At the time of his retirement, words at an emotional press conference offered a hint of things to come.

"My football and all of my aspirations have been snatched away from me," Levein said in 1997. "If I can't do it on the pitch, I hope to go into coaching." Twelve years on, a nation expects.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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