George Burley was today named as the new head coach of Scotland, and tasked with qualifying them for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Burley, who was previously with English Championship club Southampton, beat off competition for the post from Motherwell manager Mark McGhee, Celtic assistant coach Tommy Burns and former Rangers and Liverpool boss Graeme Souness.
The position has been vacant since Alex McLeish resigned in late November to take over at English Premier League side Birmingham City, having led Scotland to the brink of the UEFA EURO 2008 finals in a qualifying group that included both France and Italy.
The next target for the Scots is to progress to South Africa 2010, 12 years after their last appearance in the FIFA World Cup. Burley's first match in charge will be a friendly against Croatia on 26 March, with his first competitive fixture a trip to Macedonia in September.
Burley is a former Scotland defender who spent much of his playing career in England with Ipswich Town, where he made over 500 appearances. He also played for Sunderland, Gillingham, Motherwell and Falkirk before beginning his his coaching career as a player-manager with Ayr in 1991.
He moved on to Colchester United in 1994, before becoming boss at Ipswich, Derby County, Hearts and Southampton thereafter. As a manager, he has acquired a reputation for being good at getting the best out of individual players and getting his teams to play a passing game - something which Scotland captain Barry Ferguson welcomed.
The Rangers midfielder was impressed by the way Burley led Hearts to the top of the Scottish Premier League in 2005, before a disagreement with majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov led to his shock departure. "I've only ever heard good things about George, although I have never really spoken to him," Ferguson said.
"It was well documented that his reign at Hearts ended in unfortunate circumstances. But he had them absolutely flying at the start of that season and he looks a good manager.
"There was no doubt he transformed the whole club during that short spell in charge. He also comes across as a real football person. He likes his teams to get the ball down and play it on the deck. In my mind that's the right way to play. We certainly have the players for that style."