Levein says ‘judge me on results’ as Scotland start Brazil 2014 campaign
By STEPHEN HALLIDAY
Published on Saturday 8 September 2012 02:05
SCOTLAND manager Craig Levein is willing to accept a poor personal approval rating with the Tartan Army as he begins his bid to lead his country to a first World Cup finals appearance since 1998.
On the back of Scotland’s failure to reach the Euro 2012 play-offs in his first qualifying campaign in charge, Levein goes into today’s 2014 World Cup Group A opener against Serbia at Hampden with many supporters remaining sceptical about his suitability for the job.
But Levein, who insists no-one inside the national stadium this afternoon will be filled with a greater desire to make it to the Brazil finals than he does, is not concerned by how he is perceived by others.
“You know, this job is brilliant for finding out if you’re liked or not liked,” said Levein. “I don’t expect, and I don’t need, to be liked.
“What I need everyone to know is that there is nobody who wants Scotland to go to
Brazil more than me. Nobody. And nobody has prepared or worked harder in the last couple of years to get us into the position we’re in now.
“If it came down to how much you want it, we’d already be there. But we’ve got to prove it, I know we’ve got to prove it and the players know we’ve got to prove it. But we’re ready to go, it’s as simple as that.
“The thing with this job is that you don’t get an apprenticeship. You are just right in and get on with it and you have to learn as you go along. I desperately want to go to Brazil and I have learned so much in the last two years about this job, about my players, about other international teams. I am a much better international manager now than I was two years ago.
“You know how it works, I got judged as soon as I sat on my chair. I don’t disagree with that at all. Since day one, I have been judged by everybody and I am still getting judged by everybody because that’s the job.
“All I can do is do the job to the best of my ability, try my hardest to learn as a I go along and I feel I am in a better place than I was two years ago. The players are better individually and collectively. They understand the system, they have more international and club experience and the atmosphere within the group is 100 times better than what it was. All of that leads me to believe we are better than we were two years ago. That’s where my confidence comes from and I’ll get judged on results.”
There is a palpable sense ahead of today’s match and Tuesday night’s visit of Macedonia to Hampden that Levein is under immediate and intense pressure to ensure the campaign gets off to the most positive start possible.
“Yeah, but that’s good isn’t it?” he added. “That’s what it’s all about. To qualify for a major tournament, I don’t expect us to go through the campaign without being under pressure. We know, we’re under pressure. But that’s why I’ve got top-quality players. They play under pressure every week.
“I enjoy this part of it but I think you’ve got to enjoy it to want to do it. I just can’t wait for the games to come around, it’s the same every time.
“This is the bit I like, not the months of tranquillity in between Scotland games, although I don’t quite see it as tranquillity.
“I love this part of it. You’re in football for a reason. I love football, I loved playing and because I didn’t get to fulfil my playing ambitions the next best thing for me is management and I love it. I get hugely excited when it comes around to this time. The difficulty for me is to try and
appear like I know what I’m doing, that I’m calm.”
Levein’s preparations for today’s fixture have been far from untroubled, with the loss through injury of three defenders in Danny Fox, Russell Martin and Charlie Mulgrew. They were replaced by the uncapped trio of Paul Dixon, Gary MacKenzie and Ricky Foster. Former Dundee United man Dixon, now at Huddersfield Town, is likely to make his debut at left-back.
“It has been a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the week,” admitted Levein. “The number of left-backs who were unavailable was quite unprecedented. The good thing is I’ve now got the squad together and settled. There’s no point going over the ones who didn’t make it. It can be a bit uncertain until you get the guys in, settled and ready to go. We are in that position now.
“Because I didn’t know who was going to be available until Thursday night, it has been a little bit different from normal. Once we lost Russell Martin and Charlie Mulgrew in particular, two guys who can play just about anywhere, it was almost like losing four players.”
Levein dismissed any concerns over the readiness of goalkeeper Allan McGregor who had revealed he was not yet “100 per cent” after recovering from the groin injury which had been expected to rule him out of contention.
“He’s looking good,” said Levein. “We took it easy on him at the start of the week but he is in good spirits as he always is and he is happy to be back with his pals and is fit and ready to go.”
Taken from the Scotsman