I WOKE up early in Boston a couple of days ago just after my local NFL team, the New England Patriots, had come up short in their quest to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the SuperBowl.

Most of my Twitter feed was full of reaction to one of the NFL’s most dramatic deciders, but buried amongst quotes from Tom Brady was a headline that jumped out.

“SFA want Walter Smith to come out of retirement and ride to Scotland’s rescue.”

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For a moment, I thought I was still in the land of nod and imagining I had been transported back to Scotland a decade ago. But this was real life apparently. 

What do you think of when you see the name Walter Smith? I think of one of the best managers Scotland has produced in my lifetime. His CV needs no introduction. So you’re probably expecting me to say, “Let’s have Walter for Scotland”. Right? Wrong.

To be honest, when I see stories like this, it hits home to me that Scotland, in football terms, hasn’t changed. We utterly lack imagination when it comes to the big decisions affecting our country in the sport we all love. Decision-makers are so permanently gripped by fear of getting it wrong, they can’t see the wider world.

Many of the same arguments in favour of retaining Gordon Strachan now seem to be at the forefront of the case for Walter Smith, made by the same advocates. Experience, respect, gravitas, has been there and done it.

But let’s get this straight. The SFA have known since last autumn that they required a new manager. In fact they probably knew it long before that. They have had a chance to scour the world, talk to successful people with experience in coaching around the globe. What have they come up with? The manager of Northern Ireland who happens to live in Edinburgh and now someone, decorated or not, who has been out of management since 2011, who again lives in Scotland.

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Many of you reading this will be saying, “Rae just wants someone from a different country”. That is partially true. I fail to understand why we wouldn’t hesitate to field a player with tenuous connections to Scotland, yet we seem to balk at the idea of hiring anyone who isn’t Scottish or lives within a short drive of the M8. It defies logic. There are no shackles here. I’m sorry but the fact that Berti Vogts was perceived to have failed more than a decade ago doesn’t mean we should dismiss an entire planet. Have the Scots that followed him done any better? Should we rule out people born in Scotland on that basis?

The SFA had a golden opportunity and I fear they have passed it up. 
Only they know who they had conversations with both informational and otherwise. My suspicion is that they took the easy option. Michael O’Neill seemed like a good fit and they thought they could get him to leave Northern Ireland. No relocation costs; someone in tune with the culture in Scotland. He would surely shut up those of us who advocate a more open-minded approach to these appointments, without really having to look at someone “not from Scotland”.

But Michael said no, so what is Plan B? Was there ever a proper plan?
Well now the plan seems to be, “Let’s get Walter back in. He did pretty well when he had the job last time and everyone knows who he is. It will save us the bother of having to take a gamble on someone we’ve never heard of.”

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The SFA committee should be experts in international football. I mean that. It’s no joke. Scotland fans should expect members of that committee to know much more about the football world than the average supporter, at a minimum. Yet four months on, it seems there was no one better in the entire football world than Michael O’Neill and Walter Smith. It makes little sense.

There are those who say big-name overseas managers would never be interested in Scotland. Here’s an example that gives lie to that. Bora Milutinovic is an old acquaintance of mine. You’ll know the name, he coached Costa Rica to victory over Scotland at the 1990 World Cup. Bora has taken five different countries to the greatest show on earth, getting four of the five past the group stage, something Scotland have never achieved. He’s a fascinating guy.

One day in Florida about 20 years ago, when it was just the two of us having a stroll, Bora asked me with a twinkle in his eye about Scotland. He recalled the story of looking at all the SFA officials in their blazers that day in Genoa back in 1990 and how much he enjoyed the sour looks on their faces after Costa Rica had prevailed. “I would love to coach a traditional European country like Scotland. You need help. You never change,” Bora told me.

I spoke to a few people in the corridors of power at the time but the message was very clear. It would be too controversial, a non-starter, even in the future. Have we really moved on from this mentality? I’m not sure.

To return to Smith and international comebacks. Recently, the USA went (they thought) back to the future by appointing former coach Bruce Arena to succeed sacked Jurgen Klinsmann. But rather than right the ship, Arena hit the rocks and the USA failed to reach the finals for the first time since 1986. The tried and trusted doesn’t automatically give you what you want.

Don’t get me wrong me. If Smith is appointed Scotland manager, as a fan I will wish him all the best. It’s not his fault the SFA don’t view the football world as something to be explored.