SCOTLAND’S chances of securing a Euro 2020 place at the inaugural UEFA Nations League in September will be boosted by appointing a new manager before their March friendlies.

That was the view expressed by former national manager Craig Brown yesterday amid growing unease over the Scottish Football Association’s failure to bring in a replacement for Gordon Strachan.

The SFA have identified Michael O’Neill, the Northern Ireland manager, as their preferred candidate to take over from Strachan, whose contract wasn’t renewed after he failed to secure a Russia 2018 play-off spot in October.

Read more: Danny Wilson grateful to Graeme Murty after fearing he wouldn't play for Rangers again

But the governing body, who made an official approach to their Irish Football Association counterparts in November, appear no nearer to securing the services of the former Dundee United, Aberdeen, Hibernian and St. Johnstone midfielder.

Brown is the last man to take the country to the finals of a major tournament - he was in charge when Scotland booked a place at France ’98 - and he believes it would be enormously helpful to get the new man in soon.

Scotland are expected to play in two friendly games, against Morocco and Argentina, in March and Brown, who also led Scotland to Euro ’96, would like to see Strachan’s successor in place by then.

He feels overseeing Scotland in those matches will give him the best chance of doing well in the Nations League – where a Euro 2020 place is available - later on in the year.

“It goes without saying that it would help the new manager to get started and have games before the Nations League gets underway,” he said. “It is axiomatic.

“The more chances the new manager has to work with his players the better. He can watch games on video until the cows come home, but he will learn far more from actually working with the players. He will get a better feel for their attitude, how they fit into the system, how they want to play.

“My first game was against Italy in Rome. But I was just holding the fort. I didn’t think I would get it. The likes of Graeme Souness and Gordon Strachan were being touted for the job. But I had the benefit of being involved in the set-up for eight years. I had been the assistant and knew all the players.

“The new manager has to know where he is going to be based before a match. Is he going to go to Oriam, which is a superb facility, ahead of games? Or is he going to stay at Mar Hall where Gordon went? It would be good for him to find all this out before a competitive game. It will increase his chances of success at the Nations League.”

Brown understands why the SFA have targeted O’Neill, who has led Northern Ireland to Euro 2016, their first finals in 30 years, as well as a Russia 2018 play-off place during his six years in charge, and is hopeful they can finalise a deal.

However, he stressed they are unable to compete with Premier League clubs in England - and Stoke City have been linked with a move for the Portadown-born coach since sacking Mark Hughes on Saturday.

He would be in favour of appointing Alex McLeish, the former Scotland manager who has admitted he would consider a return to the role, if O’Neill decides not to accept their offer.

“If the delay means the SFA get the best manager for the Scotland job in then it may be worth waiting,” he said. “If they have to negotiate with Michael O’Neill further to get the best deal then so be it.

“Michael has got great European experience. Not just with the Northern Ireland team either. He got Shamrock Rovers to the group stages of the Europa League when he was their manager. That is an unbelievable achievement.

“The salaries in England are crazy. It is hard for the SFA to compete with Stoke City who will be offering millions. But Scotland might be an attractive job to him. But if he decides against it then Alex McLeish would be a safe, experienced appointment and he is available.”