NEW Ross County manager Owen Coyle has backed Gordon Strachan as the man to take Scotland to the Euros in 2020.
The national boss has come under fire – despite narrowly missing out on a World Cup play-off slot.
However, Coyle insisted the critics and Scottish FA officials should back him, not sack him.
He said: "I think we should stick by Gordon – absolutely.
"I know Gordon. He loves the game and lives and breathes football. He’s passionate about being manager of the country and I know he loves it – and he knows it is a very privileged position, very prestigious.
"But he pours his heart and soul into it.
"He’s a football man and, for me, he’s the right man to take us forward and into the next campaign.
"And I’m sure, if he does, we’ll actually qualify for the European Championships.
"We have the right man, with the right staff and group there. We need to give him the right backing and support to carry the job on."
Scotland lost a late equaliser in the 2-2 group qualifier in Slovenia to bow out of the tournament and Coyle added: "I watched it and I’m gutted the same as everyone else.
"Everybody wants to be in the finals of those tournaments. Again, as we always seen to be, we were so close.
"That said, we were so close to reaching the play-offs and then we would have faced a really difficult two-legged tie, possibly against an Italy or nation of that calibre. We obviously would have loved to have had that chance.
"I think we were a little bit unfortunate, there’s no doubt about it.
"We had a little bit of momentum, got ourselves in a good position, so Gordon Strachan and his staff, as his players will be bitterly disappointed by the goals they lost.
"The punishment came from set-plays and set-plays can change any game at the highest level.
"But I do think there has been a lot of encouragement, a lot of positives within the group.
"I can think back to previous groups where there wasn’t really much of a feeling, if we’re honest.
"This time we went right to the wire and, on another day, could have been in those play-offs. There is a lot to be pleased about, in that respect. We need to get over that final hurdle and get back to, as Scotland used to, reaching those World Cup and European Championship finals."
Coyle dismissed claims Scotland have no top quality in the side to make an impact at the final stages of a competition.
He said: "I disagree with the assertion we’re not equipped to do it any more.
" I think we can get to finals. But it takes a lot of elements to fall into place.
"In international football you’re relying, first of all, on the pool of players you have to choose from, and then on those players not picking up an injury with their club.
"Was Gordon Strachan able to field his best team in every qualifying game? I don’t think so. Injuries can play a part.
"We all crave a little bit of luck, the bounce of a ball, and with that I think Scotland can get to a finals.
"If we look at some of the countries who are in there and have managed to get there, there’s no doubt we can. But, again, it takes a lot of things to come to fruition.
"Hopefully, we can keep churning out good young players. If you have a group of players to build around, you also need another group coming up behind them.
"It is always a challenge to find good young players who can perform at that level, but we do have boys like Andy Robertson and Keiron Tierney – young boys who will only get better.
"If we can keep finding players like that, particularly in areas like central defence where we’ve maybe struggled over a number of years.
"The important thing is, collectively, bringing together a team that can reach championship finals again. I don’t think we’re too far away from doing that."
*** See this week's North Star for an interview with Ross County striker Craig Curran ahead of this weekend's home clash with Hearts.