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.