HENRY McLeish, the author of the 2010 review whose 108 recommendations Stewart Regan was tasked with implementing, expressed a belief last night that the outgoing Scottish FA chief executive had simply been ‘worn down’ by the constant political in-fighting of the role. He also believes now is make or break time if the association wants to re-establish its place as ahead of the SPFL as Scotland’s pre-eminent authority.

The former first minister, chairman of the Fife Elite youth academy, which has been omitted from the top two tiers of the association’s Project Brave plans, told Herald Sport from Tampa yesterday that in some ways he was ‘disappointed’ to hear that Regan had stepped down after the best part of eight years in charge.

While criticism of the Englishman has only reached a crescendo and a critical mass over our non-qualification for Russia and the Michael O’Neill fiasco, his departure also feeds into one of the simmering fault lines in our sport, namely the internecine squabble between the SFA and the big clubs for the soul of our game. Everything else - decisions about whether or not to renew the lease at Hampden, move to Murrayfield or simply share the cash around Ibrox and Celtic Park - simply feeds into this struggle.

In the end, when he took the decision to step down from one of the hottest seats in Scottish society, Regan appeared to have succeeded in alienating clubs at both ends of the scale. While smaller sides took umbrage at the financial jeopardy that his Project Brave plans were insisting upon, giants such as Celtic were looking ascance at the move to send our international players off to far-flung destinations such as Mexico and Peru during the summer. One theory even doing the rounds amongst certain clubs is that so gratuitous was this last one that it might even have been a deliberate provocation.

However much love is lost for Regan along the corridor at the SPFL, McLeish feels the overall good of Scottish football is too important to be left to the big clubs and told Herald Sport that it was now or never for the SFA to reassert its place at the head of our game.

“Stewart will have his critics, and there issues where he can be criticised, but he came in at a crucial moment,” said McLeish, who was non-committal as whether he could have any role to play going forward. “He is a reformer and in my judgement he has simply been worn down by the challenges of Scottish football which haven’t been properly addressed.

“I am not surprised he has resigned,” McLeish added. “In some respects I am disappointed. He has helped modernise the game significantly and in my view has restored some of the credibility of the game in the eyes of the government and some outsiders. He has dealt with a number of difficult issues, such as the replacement for Gordon Strachan which was vastly overplayed. The replacement of the national stadium lease has been difficult.

“But this is a pivotal moment for Scottish football, with no manager of the national team, no chief executive of the SFA, and the game littered with so many challenges,” he added. “This is a make or break moment for Scottish football, and appointing the next chief executive is as important and possibly more important than the Scottish manager because the SFA boss has to set the parameters of our games, and the outcomes, do the things that are in the best interest in everyone, not play second fiddle to the club game, as important as it is.

“In terms of where we go next the problems of Scottish football are much more deeply rooted than merely appointing a next chief executive,” McLeish added. “As a membership organisation, Scottish football isn’t working. This is a situation organised around too few clubs, and Project Brave has been fundamentally changed to its detriment over the last few months, due to pressure from the clubs. Someone needs to re-establish the SFA as the premier organisation in Scottish football, not the SPFL.

“While my review was significant, much more needs to be done. Overall, the culture, the institution, it is not as modern as it should be. We are now coming up for 20 years of failing to qualify for World Cups and European Championships. Once Iceland had qualified, it removed ay vestige of explanation that we had about the Scottish game. So we are not in a good place, but rather than be seen as an opportunity to criticise what Stewart Regan did or didn’t do, collectively we take some responsibility.”

“A new chief executive will have to have the remit that the SFA will be the pre-eminent organisation. He will have total control of Project Brave and will be able to redistribute the benefits of the game, rather than the bonuses or the benefits of the game being channelled to a few big clubs. Otherwise don’t expect a new Sottish manager or chief executive to turn it around unless the person receieves the kind of collective support which is missing just now.

“We need to think in a more adventurous way. Perhaps a chief executive from the outside world, someone who is gripped by the passion and the history of the game. Someone with a great deal of courage and independent flair, someone who can say to the big clubs in Scotland that the SFA has to become the pre-eminent authority in the game. Someone who can re-connect with the Scottish government, not just circle the wagons, because the game is very insecure, and the SFA part of it is very insecure because of the tensions and anxieties with the SPL. We need to have confidence in the appointment and it needs to be a radical appointment.”