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Levein No Longer The Darling
Craig Levein knew he would be in the firing line one day when he took on the job of Scotland manager.
Two draws in the first two home World Cup 2014 qualifying games did no favours to Scotland manager Craig Levein as far as the fans were concerned. A 0-0 draw followed by a 1-1 draw against Serbia and Macedonia respectively have also been described by many pundits as two nails in the coffin for Scotland's hopes of making the finals. The last time Scotland were involved in a major final, they kicked off against Brazil in the opening game of the France World Cup in 1998. Scotland fans have long memories of adding colour to any tournament finals they are involved in. Some are already packing away their travel plans and cancelling their Portuguese langue lessons. There is a campaign building against Levein and his tactics. He has always been protected to a large degree from criticism from the media due to his openness and his media skills. However, there are some who are asking pertinent questions at this key stage in the qualification process such as is Levein up to the job. Tactics such as not playing striker when aiming to qualify for EURO2012 mystified both the fans and media. Tactics such as not playing the 'on-fire' striker Jordan Rhodes from the start in both recent games has also resulted in much head scratching. While an admirer of the new Blackburn Rovers striker, Levein does not think Rhodes is ready to start an full international game preferring to stick to willing, but aging, Kenny Miller as his front man. While Miller's willingness to play the lone striker role can never be questioned, his ability to find that extra yard required to take a chance has been tempered by his 32 years. Levein pointed out that, although a prospect for the future and had shown his striking instincts in League One, Rhodes had yet to prove himself as a goalscorer in the Championship. The coach's views came to light the day after the Oldham-born 22-year-old, who came on as a late substitute against Serbia and Macedonia, scored twice in a 5-3 win over Bristol City. The long running dispute between Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher and Levein has also hampered the latter's popularity status. Fletcher has not featured in a Scotland squad since he texted back in February 2011 that he was not available for a friendly against Northern Ireland. With neither proud man feeling able to make the first move to get over this impasse, Scotland are denied a viable and experienced alternative to augment the Miller - Rhodes strike option. Levein has recently said that Fletcher will not feature in his squads for the rest of the World Cup campaign as he did not want the issue hanging over his selections. This, along with other questionable decisions made along the way, could well be something that comes back to haunt Scotland and Levein if we end up watching the World Cup from home once again.
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