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An American in Scotland

Inexperienced Yank runs SMNT
Started on 2 March 2020 by jahendricksi
Latest Reply on 9 March 2020 by jahendricksi
  • POSTS41
  • VIEWS3632

The Scottish Football Association today made the surprising announcement of appointing relatively unknown 30 year old* American James Hendricks as the successor to Alex McLeish as manager of the Men’s Scottish National Team, drawing to an end Big Eck’s uneven second tenure as head of the SMNT. While most Scotland supporters will look back fondly at topping Nations League Group C1 and earning promotion, they currently sit 3rd on 9 points in Euro 2020 qualification group I, behind leaders Russia and level with Belgium on points but third on goal difference, and are in danger of not qualifying for yet another major international competition.

“Everyone looks back with fondness on the magical run in 1998 which got us to France, and the almost qualification for Euro 2008”, said Rod Petrie, President of the SFA. “If Walter Smith hadn’t left his post as manager to help Rangers win 8 trophies over the next 4 years we would have made it to Austria/Switzerland. So we decided to learn from that and go with someone who has never managed at any level above Pub Team. As Reece Simpson, aka Roll Safe, says ‘he can’t leave you for his former club if he doesn’t have a former club.’ Plus, he is not associated in any way with those Tim Neds so that is another plus in the ledger.”

When asked about Hendricks’ complete lack of experience in football as a player or in management, SFA Executive Neil Doncaster downplayed the situation. “Maurizio Sarri is one of the top coaches in club football, having just taken over managing one of the top teams in Juventus after leading Chelsea to Europa League glory this summer. His background is not as a footballer but as a banker, a numbers man. So we looked for someone who is also a numbers man and found an American Data Analyst.* You don’t succeed without benchmarking and emulating the best and by getting a numbers guy that lacks playing or managing experience we feel we have done that. Of course Hendricks doesn’t smoke like Sarri but no one is perfect.”

While the timing is a little strange, and there is a surfeit of other managers available (Steve Clarke from Kilmarnock was the bookies’ choice and the obvious selection, capping off a third place finish in the SPFL and Europa League qualification with PFA and SFWA Manager of the Year awards), Petrie explained the timing: “With a potential hard Brexit looming and Scotland refusing to push for IndyRef2 we had to get him in now while the borders were open. We had looked at Clarke, who required no special dispensation for a work permit, but we felt he would do the game more good challenging those Fenians for domestic honors than leading our National team.”

Doncaster echoed his President’s words. “We expect this to be a smooth transition with very little issues as Hendricks gets used to another land, culture, sport, and language—those teuchters up north certainly don’t sound like they speak English,” Doncaster laughs. “We are focusing on introducing VAR [Video Assisted Replay] to the Scottish game over the next year beginning in some cup matches. We don’t expect to have the uproar and controversy our brethren down south have with this—no Cup Final is going to be decided based on VAR up here, let me tell you!—and that same care and attention to detail you will see in our VAR implementation you will see in our bedding in of the new manager.”

Not much is known about the mystery man, James Hendricks, who did not attend an introductory press conference. He did post a statement on the SFA website that he “would be sending his Assistant Manager [whomever that might be following the sacking of James McFadden along with McLeish] to speak at all future press conferences to allow me to focus more fully on the team and tactics.”

* this is not my age but is my nationality and occupation.
jahendricksi's avatar Group jahendricksi
1 yearEdited

A little history of the Scottish National Team.

My goal for this save is to qualify for Euro 2020 and progress from my group. I will not be taking any club jobs while I am managing the SMNT, even though in my other saves I do. I will also change things up a little and try different tactics than I normally use for Scotland to see how I fare.

I look forward to your comments and thank Imagine for his wonderful Flower of Scotland story that inspired me to do this and his blessing and support in my efforts on this story.

This is the tactic I will use. Scotland's Keeper situation is not very good so having a stout defensive formation should paper over some of the cracks. Also, none of their forwards currently is good enough to operate as a sole striker (McBurnie is the best option and he is slooooooow) so I am having two to play off one another. I may keep the AMC or drop him back to a flat midfield three--we'll see how that goes.

New Assistant:

(re-posting from the BBC Scotland's Football site)
"James Hendricks confirmed his appointment of Roy Aitken as the new Assistant Manager for the Scotland Men's team. With Aitken's two-plus decades of experience in management this should mitigate some of the knowledge deficit and naivety our American cousin will experience in the football world in Scotland. Time will tell if this is a good appointment or not."

(reposted from the Daily Mirror Football Forum)
"What does James Hendricks think he is doing? Two young, promising strikers have been told not to bother trying to join the Scottish Men's Team. With Leigh Griffiths still recovering from his mental issues we have a dearth of top quality forwards. Turning away a natural passer in Sibeko, who seems a good fit for Hendricks' rumoured two up top system, seems an odd choice. And Appere has come through the Dundee Utd youth ranks and has a good eye for goal with their reserve team. If these are the decisions he makes then I am not expecting big things from this guy."
jahendricksi's avatar Group jahendricksi
1 yearEdited
First Squad:

(reposted from
"What is this Yank doing? Calling up players that are past their best--I'm looking at you, Craig Gordon and Grant Hanley--and players that are too young to help us now (both McCrories, Porteous, McIntyre, need I go on...?). I admire the youth movement but we want to qualify for Euro 2020, not Euro 2024. Focus on now and bring in better players. No Fraser, Ritchie, Naismith, Jack, Burke, etc.? What a joke except I'm not laughing."

"Only 7 Celts in the 23 man roster?! What is this stoopid American doing? I can't believe he left off Scott Brown, only the greatest Celt and Scot of my lifetime. Plus Magic Johnston, Henderson, Ralston at RB all left off? He could have had 1/2 the team Celts and it would be improved."

"Of course there are no Rangers in the team. Typical conspiracy against us--the only reason both Robby and Ross made it is because we loaned them out. Otherwise someone else would have been called up instead."

Note on the selection: Tierney was still injured and I decided to try Forrest at wingback (like Celtic is doing now) and stuck to my WB formation, leaving a lot of good wingers in the stands. I like going with youth and am rolling the dice with younger players. We'll see how they do in the next couple of games.
Great start @Jahendricksi, the goalkeeping and striker situation is a tough one so I hope that someone can come through for you ASAP. Robby McCrorie develops well when given a chance so hopefully the Rangers manager has faith in him. Ross McCrorie also develops really well and with these two you have a great future. Scott McKenna, John Souttar, Kieran Tierney and Andrew Robertson are mainstays for a long time so they're a great platform to build on. Right back is another problematic position so hopefully you do well in making Forrest adapt well there. Failing that, Ryan Fredericks eventually switches after a few conversations and I'd highly recommend him as he was great for me. There are some real quality midfielders too, so again, a good spine to work with. Good luck!
Some notable omissions from the squad. Good luck with this!
Good start to this and looking forward to seeing what you bring to the site! An interesting team selection and one that is clearly worrying some of the fans, hopefully you prove them wrong!
jahendricksi's avatar Group jahendricksi
1 yearEdited

Our first game was against Group toppers Russia, in Russia. I went with our strongest lineup (except the McIntyre—Souttar switch) and elected to go with Craig Gordon in goal. Even though he is not starting for Celtic and his physicals are…great for a 37 year old, his 1-1 and Reflexes are good and I figured the formation should make up for his lack of physical abilities. Plus the weather was dry so no concern with his mediocre handling.

The game started and immediately Leigh Griffiths went down with an ankle injury, which put him out for 3 weeks. I put McBurnie in instead of Cummings since his pace is OK but his strength and finishing are a little better and felt with Shankland as a Poacher those characteristics mattered more than Cummings’ speed. Also, I now should worry about Celtic releasing their players if they get injured on duty.

As expected our formation and style meant that we would win possession but likely be outshot. However, with the compactness of the formation most shots should be from distance, from a narrow angle, or would have a defender hanging around to alter their shot, which did happen.

At the other end nothing could quite get going. The focus of our attacks came down the wings, particularly the left where Robertson terrorized the Russians all game. However, despite having underlap set most of the ends resulted in crosses or speculative passes instead of hitting Christie (AMC) or McTominay/McGinn on late runs. This led to a lot of attacks fizzling out just before the final third (or just in it) without shots on target.

A breakthrough occurred in the 56th minute when McTominay intercepted the ball during Russia’s counter and, spotting McBurnie slowly lumbering back on defense, played a quick ball over the top to him. McBurnie corralled the pass and coolly slotted it in the bottom right corner past the keeper. With the way our defense was playing I felt confident that one goal would get us points but it was squeaky bum time as Russia futily pushed forward for the equalizer the last 10 minutes.

Overall the formation worked as designed: we limited the amount of good shots they took and played for a close win. I am concerned with the number of fouls (14) and yellow cards (3), particularly since 10 of those fouls were from the midfield pairing of McTominay and McGinn. Coupling this with their poor tackling rate (12/27, with McGinn only at 25%!) my area of strength was anything but. I am likely to go with a flat midfield 3 for San Marino to see how that improves (I know it is San Marino so should be a guaranteed win so I will likely continue it to the following matches) particularly since the AMC was surprisingly missing from the attack buildup.


Thank you for reading and commenting. Imagine, I'm glad this inspired you to restart your Scotland save--I enjoyed reading it and look forward to where you take them!

ScottT, normally I play a 4-1-2-2-1 with Wingers as Scotland have a plethora of good wingers for 10+ years and the DMC can either be a BWM or DLP depending on the opposition or players. My friend has had great success at the club level with his WB formation, particularly with Tierney, so I thought I would give it a go. I can't figure out how to put Fraser in the team but he might be a WBR and I'll have McKenna as the DRC to cover for his gaffes.

LFC, thank you for the feedback. I am trying to incorporate how fans would really respond and hope I am accurately capturing their voice. I feel like I have Petrie down pretty well... :D

This was the formation and squad we used for the San Marino match, our second away from home in as many games. It was a much weaker team, but the result was outstanding: 8-0 against the minnows! Paterson was a terror on the right wing, bagging two goals and POM honors. McBurnie scored a brace as well, making that three in the two games thus far.

After this first slate of matches, Scotland sit third in their group but level on points with Belgium (1st) and Russia (2nd) and 2nd on goal difference (+15). We are on track to qualify, I have blooded in 6 debutantes so far (Lindsay, McCrorie, McCrorie, McIntyre, Porteous, and Shankland), and have kept two clean sheets in two matches. Four players have broken their international duck (McBurnie, McGregor, McTominay, and Paterson) and we are ready to see what the next slate of matches bring in October (Home vs. Belgium and Away vs. Cyprus).

(reposted from
"Sure, we won both matches away from home. Yes, we got kept clean sheets and got younger in some key areas like defense. But lets see how we do against Belgium, especially if Hendricks still relies on the youth. I am not convinced yet."

Match three against Belgium, our first at home, would prove to be a challenging affair. Not only are they top of the qualifying group, most of their players are superior to their counterparts on the Scottish team. Knowing it unlikely we could keep them from scoring, I elected to keep the AMC to create more chances and improve link-up play. I also started McBurnie as TM, figuring Christie and Griffiths (healthy again) could be played on to scoring chances through him. I kept Gordon in goal since he is currently my best option at keeper.

The match started as you’d expect, with Belgium bagging a goal 5 minutes in thanks to some skillful maneuvering from De Bruyne on the right wing to whip a cross to a poorly marked Lukaku on the far post. The inexperience of Tom McIntyre showed on allowing this goal.

The score remained 1-0 through the half hour mark as our defense strangled any opportunities from Belgium, completely frustrating Hazard and De Bruyne (after the initial cross). Lukaku also struggled against the strength of Hanley and McKenna and was unable to bully them off the ball.

At the half hour mark McIntyre absolved his earlier mistake by latching onto a Robertson corner to knock the ball in the near post to draw level. The score remained that way towards the end of the match, our defense frustrating the visitors but ½ our shots being off target. In the 67th minute McIntyre was swapped out for Souttar, with the thinking Souttar’s ball skills and experience would help in the buildup (and avoid any mistakes from McIntyre). Griffiths followed in the 73rd minute, having had a quiet day. A tired McGinn gave way to McGregor in the 78th as I pressed hard for a winning goal in the final 10 minutes.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 86th minute as Jason Cummings, on for Griffiths, was the recipient of good teamwork: McGregor sent a ball towards McBurnie, who knocked it into the path of Christie, playing in the charging Cummings whose speed allowed him to get the slightest space and knock the ball into the right side of the net for his first goal for Scotland. 2-1 Scotland was the score and how it would remain through the whistle.

Lessons learned: the formation is doing what it is meant to do, stifling opportunities for the opposition and keeping games close. The flat midfield 3 is better than having the AMC as for most of the game, despite Christie being integral to the winner, the AMC didn't draw out defenders or create chances. Also, McT and McG won all their tackles and bossed their counterparts from Belgium—after the concern of their performance against Russia this pairing might be OK. Playing McBurnie as a TM was good on the winner but he was silent most of the match and would be better served not as a focal point but as an AF, which is how I’ve played him in the past two games. Lastly, Griffths might be better served as a super-sub, with his pace and agility more useful against a tired defense when we are chasing a goal for the victory or to kill momentum (Cummings contribution this match).

For the second game, and third away from home, I went with my younger squad to continue getting them used to the style and tempo I play at this level. As expected, this was not a close game as we dominated from start to finish.

After four games we now top our group. The main concerns going in--lack of viable options in defense and at keeper and goal scoring--seem to be a non-issue as our formation makes us tough to score on and we seem to be getting goals from all over the team: 14 goals from 8 different players in 4 matches. Two more matches--home to Russia and Kazahkstan--and winning one should allow us to qualify.

(reposted from the
"Top of our group and the next two games at home. We might actually go through. Feeling good about our chances. Finally. Maybe the Yank knows what he's doing. Maybe the SFA know what they're doing. And maybe the Tories won't cock up Brexit and actually have a plan in place."

(reposted from
"Of course it is great we are in great position to qualify. But does the Yank have to play our players so much? I know we have the best players in Scotland by far but we need our players to continue our domestic dominance. Maybe rely on other players to get the results, Yank."

(reposted from
"Great to see us almost qualifying and great to see the Tims players not getting much rest. Glad the Yank is playing the McCrories as that will help us next when they're starting for us and helping defend our title."
Flying! Some excellent results, including a massive victory against Belgium. Congratulations on that one.
Huge win that against Belguim, really starting to shut some of those fans up now, even if for some reason they seem to have something against you.

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