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The rise and fall of Burley

George Burley

George Burley's reign as Scotland manager has come to an end after a poor run of results. BBC Scotland looks at some of the reasons why he failed as the national coach.

THE APPOINTMENT

Burley unveiled as Scotland manager

Controversy surrounded the appointment process to replace Alex McLeish and proved to be the first real test of Scottish Football Association chief executive Gordon Smith, who had only been in the job a matter of months.

Smith and the SFA drew up a four-man shortlist that included George Burley, Graeme Souness, Mark McGhee and Tommy Burns.

Media speculation pointed to Burley as the clear favourite and when questioned on television shortly before Burley's appointment, then Motherwell manager Mark McGhee insisted that he had not been told that his application had been unsuccessful.

This prompted a confrontational stance by Smith at the media conference to introduce Burley as Scotland manager, with the chief executive defending the SFA's handling of the affair.

Burley, for his part, used the press conference to give an impassioned gambit about how excited he was to be the Scotland manager and outlined his dream of taking the team to the World Cup finals whilst playing the brand of attacking football he had employed as a club manager.

THE CALL-OFFS

Kevin Thomson and Steven Whittaker pulled out of the squad for Wales
Kevin Thomson and Steven Whittaker pulled out of the squad for Wales

Burley had to wait almost six weeks for his first match, a friendly at Hampden against Croatia.

The build-up to the game was overshadowed by a raft of squad withdrawals, with the game scheduled only three days before a crucial Old Firm match at Ibrox.

This culture of call-offs continued into the World Cup qualifying campaign and future friendly matches (there were 10 call-offs for the recent match in Japan), with Burley at one point making a joking remark that he had become "immune" to it.

THE SCHEDULE

George Burley
Burley's side lost their opening World Cup qualifier in Macedonia

Scotland's first World Cup qualifying match under Burley was the September 2008 encounter with Macedonia in Skopje.

As kick-off drew near, it became clear that the heat in the Macedonian capital would make it difficult for the Scots, who at this point had registered two draws and a defeat in three friendlies.

Questions were asked about why Scotland had accepted the scheduling of the game, which the home side went on to win 1-0, rather than pushing for a date in a less humid part of the year.

The issue was raised again when Burley requested that the Scottish Premier League season be delayed to give his squad more time to prepare for the trip to Norway.

Following an initial impasse, the SPL consented to the move but it backfired when Scotland suffered a 4-0 hammering in Oslo.

With World Cup qualifying Group 9 containing only five countries, compared to the six featured in all the other qualification sections, Scotland's last fixture was scheduled to kick-off earlier than those from other groups.

Therefore, in the event that the second-placed team in Scotland's group had a chance of making the play-offs, they would not know the outcome until all the other groups had been decided.

In the end, both Scotland and Norway's chances of reaching the play-offs were ended on the final day of qualifiers, making the point moot.

THE FALL-OUTS

In true Scottish media timing, Burley was dealt an apparent double blow following the defeat to Macedonia with Rangers midfielder Lee McCulloch announcing his international retirement.

I didn't rush into Scotland decision - Boyd

McCulloch insisted he had made the decision before the defeat in Skopje and admitted that the media coverage had painted him as a villain.

In truth, McCulloch's move was unsurprising, as he had only featured in one of Burley's squads and was not a regular in Walter Smith's squad at Ibrox.

However, it sparked a somewhat acrimonious relationship between the Scotland manager and several other members of the Rangers squad.

In October 2008, Burley's side were drawing 0-0 with Norway at Hampden but still had three striking options on the bench in Kris Boyd, Chris Iwelumo and Steven Fletcher.

Burley, with only two substitutions remaining, elected to throw on Fletcher and the uncapped Iwelumo, neither of whom had yet scored for Scotland, leaving seven-time international scorer Boyd out altogether.

The move backfired with Wolves' Iwelumo missing an open goal and the game ending scoreless, leaving the Scots with only four points from their first three Group 9 matches.

The following day, Boyd announced that he would no longer be available for Scotland duty under Burley and the Rangers striker went on to become the Scottish Premier League's top goalscorer for season 2008/09.

Burley explains why he did not pick Boyd

With the SFA flooded with calls on the Monday, Burley reluctantly fronted a news conference to defend his decision to field Iwelumo instead of Boyd and insisted he only wanted players who were "totally committed".

Six months later, Scotland returned from a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Amsterdam and stayed at the Cameron House Hotel, which was to become the scene of one of the most infamous incidents in the national team's recent history.

Captain Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor broke a curfew and were dropped to the bench for the next game against Iceland only three days later.

The Rangers pair were subsequently photographed making rude gestures to photographers and were eventually told they would never play for their country again.

THE RESULTS

Barry Ferguson
Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor made offensive gestures to the media

The off-field events were enough to sour Burley's relationship with the media but the results gave the media more than enough fuel to criticise the Scotland manager.

It took Burley five internationals to record his first win with Scotland - a 2-1 win in Iceland - and only two more wins followed in the World Cup qualifying campaign.

However, the damage was done at home to the Norwegians, as the two defeats to the Netherlands were neither a disgrace nor unexpected.

In friendlies, Burley struggled to make his mark with draws at home to Croatia and Northern Ireland and defeats in the Czech Republic, Japan and Wales, where the 3-0 reverse provoked an angry reaction from the travelling fans.



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see also
Burley sacked as Scotland manager
16 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Storm clouds gather over Scots
15 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Scotland are limited says Souness
16 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Wales 3-0 Scotland
14 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Burley reeling after Scots loss
14 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Brown concern over Scots plight
14 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Peat demands Scots drinks probe
03 Apr 09 |  Internationals
Boyd defiant in Scotland boss row
16 Oct 08 |  Rangers
Iwelumo vows to shake off howler
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Scotland 0-0 Norway
11 Oct 08 |  Internationals
Iceland 1-2 Scotland
10 Sep 08 |  Internationals
Burley set for his biggest test
24 Jan 08 |  Internationals
Burley outlines plan for Scotland
24 Jan 08 |  Football
Burley appointed Scotland manager
24 Jan 08 |  Internationals


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