SCOTTISH Football Association chief executive Stewart Regan has faced calls to resign since Michael O'Neill turned down the chance to become Scotland manager on Monday.

Regan was in Lausanne in Switzerland yesterday for the UEFA Nations League draw and he spoke to TimesSport chief football writer Matthew Lindsay about the failure to land their preferred target to replace Michael O'Neill and where they go now.

Q: You have come in for some savage criticism personally and faced calls to resign this week. How tough has it been?

A: “It’s disappointing both personally and for Scottish football that we haven’t got the guy we targeted and felt could lead Scotland to Euro 2020.

“We targeted him at the outset and put together our strongest package within the budget confines we’d agreed with the board and presented a very strong case in a three-and-a-half hour meeting in Edinburgh last week.

“It was a very positive and productive meeting and I genuinely think Michael was torn. On one hand he had his loyalty to Northern Ireland and on the other an opportunity to lead Scotland, the country where he lives and has made his home and in the city where we have our national performance centre. But we haven’t got him and we’ve got to refocus and take our shortlist to the next stage.”

Q: Did you leave the meeting with Michael O’Neill last week thinking you had got your man?

A: “We came out of the meeting thinking we had given it our very best shot and we’d done everything we possibly could and while it’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing for everyone - I’ve seen some of the comments from the fans - this isn’t unusual in football.

“It’s not unusual that you don’t get the guy you target. You give it your best shot and put your best foot forward - but sometimes it doesn’t happen and we have to move on.”

Q: While it’s not unusual to target a manager and not get him, it is unusual for two months to pass by before you sit down with him. Did the delay prevent you getting your target?

A: “I’m not sure I accept that in whole. A national association job is very different to a club job. In a club job you’ve got players who are in at work every single day and you’ve got a match coming up so there is a need to get someone in more quickly.

“In a national coach situation where you haven’t got a competitive match for several months there isn’t the same burning need to have someone in place immediately.

“It was made very clear to his agent throughout that we wanted to do things professionally and above board.

“The last thing I would have done is to have approached Michael without receiving permission to speak to him. We’re the governing body and responsible for managing the way our clubs operate and we wouldn’t like that happening on our watch.”

Q: But when your predecessor Gordon Smith targeted George Burley he went to his agent and asked: ‘Will George come if we make an official approach?’ That happens in football.

A: “I don’t think you can actually say to anyone ‘Will he come?’ The person has to have a chance to sit and be interviewed and also to understand what we are able to offer.

“We hadn’t had official permission to speak directly to Michael O’Neill. That was all linked to agreeing a compensation package.

“The first part of the process was trying to get to an agreement with the IFA and in order to do that we had to, as a board, get comfortable with the amount of money involved and how we would structure that.

“The second part of the process was making the official approach and in that official approach we got to the position where the agent knew that was our best package. The third part was sitting down with Michael.

Q: Have the SFA been naive?

A: “We followed it in the only way that we could. We had to get to a position that we could agree the compensation. We couldn’t pass go until we had got that particular issue resolved and it took us a while to do that because of the numbers involved. But when we did we acted very quickly and we made an approach to Michael to speak to him and we did that last week.”

Q: Has O’Neill given you a reason for turning you down?

A: “He hasn’t come out and said ‘it’s because of X’. What he said was that he didn’t think it was the right opportunity for him at this stage in his career. That was the line he used in his statement.”

Q: Does the fact that becoming the highest paid Scotland manager in history wasn’t attractive to him concern you?

A: “This is a really attractive job. Lots of managers are interested in becoming the Scotland manager simply because to manage your country brings a unique sense of pride and passion about it. It is a job that is appealing to a younger up-and-coming manager.

“We have had a lot of interest. I honestly don’t think that it’s anything about the job for Michael O’Neill. It’s the balance between what was on offer to him in Northern Ireland versus the opportunity in Scotland. In his case, he’s decided that he should stay.”

Q: The next person will know they were your second choice?

A: “That happens, doesn’t it? It happened at Stoke, it happened at Everton, it has happened in other environments. That is not unusual in football. This is undoubtedly an attractive job. It is now for the sub-committee to get that list together and get to a position where we can move it forward.”

Q: Do you go back to a blank page in your search for a Scotland manager?

A: “No, not at all. We had a shortlist and we have added names in the last few days actually because there are some that have come forward to us. We do have a list of names that we have targeted.”

Q: How bruising is the criticism and the calls to resign?

A: “In seven years I’ve learned to separate reality from the ‘noise’ that goes on in the media and particularly online. I’m not here to win a popularity contest. I’m here to try to do a job. Unfortunately, when you do the job I do you are the person where the buck stops and the person that is criticised if things don’t go the way people would like.

“I’ve learned to live with that. I’ve got a thick skin. I know that people get frustrated and they want to take it out on the Scottish FA and on somebody in particular. That’s just part of my job. I’m determined to get the right person to lead Scotland forward and give us the best possible chance of getting to Euro 2020.”

Q: Do you expect internal criticism within the SFA?

A: “The board has been part of this process from the outset. The board appointed the sub-committee and I’m leading the sub-committee. My colleagues Alan McRae, Rod Petrie and Ian Maxwell have been part of that process and at every step of the way the board has been updated on what has been happening and where we in that process.

“There is nothing new in here, there are no surprises. I think the board will be – and are – disappointed with the situation that we find ourselves in, but it’s not an unusual situation in football. I think we just now need to discuss the runners and riders on the shortlist and kick on and get somebody.”

Q: Scotland qualifying for the finals of a major tournament would be worth millions to the SFA. Wouldn’t it have been worth splashing out to get the best manager in?

A: “You can only work within a business – and that’s what we are, a £33 million turnover business - with the budget you have. If you’ve won prize money of €33 million, which our colleagues in Wales and Northern Ireland have done, then you’ve more money at your disposal.

“We agree the budget each year and in the case of the managerial appointment, we had to push the boundaries, but we had to push them to a realistic level, without putting ourselves in a difficult financial situation. It wasn’t just about money, there were other things we could put on the table, but unfortunately Michael’s chosen to stay with Northern Ireland.

“You can’t look at it saying let’s put all the eggs in one basket, because that manager may not be successful and we’d be criticised for throwing good money after bad. What we have to be is balanced in any decision-making we make.

“We’re investing in the next generation of young talent and there’s evidence players are beginning to emerge through the pipeline. We made a significant offer to Michael, in terms of offers we’ve made to Scottish managers of the past. We’ve not held anything back, we’ve gone as far as we can within the constraints of the budget we have.”

Q: Would you like to have a permanent boss in place by the Costa Rica and Hungary friendlies?

A: “Ideally. It would be our preference to have someone in place but if we haven’t – and let me stress it’s about getting the right person for the job and if that takes a little bit longer then so be it – there could be another interim for the friendlies. We will deal with that a little bit closer to those friendlies.”

Q: Can you win back the confidence of the fans after this by appointing a Scotland manager who will excite them?

A: “Our challenge is to get the right person in this job and get someone who can lead Scotland to a major finals. That is the ambition, that’s what we are determined to do.”