Opinion: Gordon Strachan and Gareth Southgate face off could determine who keeps their job

Opinion: Gordon Strachan and Gareth Southgate face off could determine who keeps their job

As England take on Scotland this Friday in World Cup qualifying, it will be a game that could well determine whether Strachan or Southgate keep their respective jobs.

Matt Dawson

Gordon Strachan and Gareth Southgate are two men who have over 100 caps between them for their respective countries, nations they now manage.

However as the two lock horns at Wembley on Friday evening when England face Scotland, the main question will not be over whether they can qualify for the next World Cup, but whether or not the two will still be in charge come 2018.

Poor records

Strachan’s record at Scotland since he took charge three years ago hasn’t been anything to shout about, as his side were the only home nation not to reach this summer’s European Championship in France.

Southgate however is a newer appointment, taking on a farcical England side, which based on his decision to select players unmerited of inclusion for the upcoming matches, deserves to only be interim, and not full time. But then again, when have we seen an England manager select players on merit, rather than reputation in the last decade? It’s a disconcerting time to be involved in both camps, that's for sure.

Concerns have been raised over whether Southgate will be given the job on a permanent basis, but a win over Scotland, and the chance to impress against Spain, could be all he needs to convince the FA to employ him as the next rather unfortunate man to lead the England national team.

For Strachan, a defeat against England and it could be the final straw for a frustrated Scottish faithful who haven’t seen tournament football since 1998.

Neither side good enough

This group of Scottish players, much like England’s isn’t the greatest ever seen, and that’s an understatement, especially looking at the Three Lions. Based on expectations, though, Strachan being shown the door would be somewhat harsh, despite the fact he’s won just below half of his games in charge.

On the other hand, Southgate has just the two games to his name as England boss, drawing with Slovenia and defeating Malta in another very uninspiring display after what was witnessed in France.

It’s results like those ones, and dare we mention it, the Iceland encounter in France, that shows that this England side really aren’t anything to get excited about. To put it bluntly, it’s not the stuff of champions, but it is extremely difficult to say whether anyone else can do better right now.

In truth, we need to lower our expectations, we need to realise that this England team isn't going anywhere, especially with Southgate in charge. After all, he had a pretty shambolic time in charge at Middlesbrough, winning under 30% of his matches. How in any way is that deserving of a full time role as England manager? For now at least it is interim, but it certainly doesn't bode well.

Will Gareth Southgate still be smiling after Friday's encounter with Scotland? | Photo: Getty Images.

Current situation

The Sam Allardyce saga hasn’t helped the current situation of English football, but after this international break there will be a clearer view of Southgate’s style and whether or not he can achieve anything with England. The answer to that will probably be no, but if the FA are insisting on employing an English-born boss then they’re clutching at some pretty small straws, especially when the Premier League is a foreign frenzy of players and managers alike.  

As for Strachan, he’d do anything to be in England’s shoes, just getting to a major tournament seems like a distant dream for Scotland nowadays, and a 1-1 draw with Lithuania tells all you need to know about how poor they are at the moment.

They did however beat Malta 5-1, a victory that surpassed England’s against the footballing minnows. Some hope then finally for Scotland? Probably not, but in what is a poor qualifying group, perhaps there is some sort of glimmer in the distance that they could reach their first tournament for 20 years.

Previous history

The Auld rivalry between England and Scotland is not a quiet one, but there has perhaps never been so much focus off the pitch and on the managers, rather than the players, since the two sides met for the first time all the way back in 1872, 112 meetings ago.

England may have the better record against their Scottish counterparts, winning 47 times compared to the 24 times for Scotland, but Southgate will feel that this England side still obviously have something to prove, and indeed he may sense that he does too.

After Southgate was sacked as manager of Middlesbrough, Strachan replaced him in Teesside, something that the former may well have some sort of grudge over. Southgate is hardly the man to admit that, a calm character on the outside, but he will be eager to get one over Strachan and the old enemy at Wembley on Friday. 

Despite this game being between two rivaling countries you have to expect it to be quite a dull one, such is the state of the football both England and Scotland play at this moment in time. But for two men whose jobs are potentially on the line, they'll have to be fired up and show that their nations are capable of progressing.