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Burley keeps job after World Cup failure

The Scottish Football Association have "invested faith'' in George Burley by backing him to continue as Scotland manager.

SFA chief executive Gordon Smith claimed Scotland were "moving in the right direction'' under Burley despite a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign which ended in a 1-0 defeat by Holland last week.

The decision was effectively taken on Monday when Burley met Smith and the three other SFA office-bearers to discuss Scotland's third-place finish in Group Nine and his future plans for the national team.

The "full and frank'' review of the campaign saw Burley convince the quartet, which also included president George Peat and vice-presidents Campbell Ogilvie and Alan McRae, that he should lead Scotland into qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championship.

The decision to stick with Burley was confirmed after a meeting of the board of directors, with only Scottish Premier League chairman Lex Gold absent from the 11-man committee.

Burley was under huge pressure going into Scotland's final two qualifiers after a 4-0 defeat to Norway in Oslo left him with just two wins, and four goals, from six competitive matches.

But a 2-0 victory over Macedonia and a rousing first-half display against Holland have proved enough to earn Burley another chance despite missing out on a play-off and falling behind Norway on goal difference.

Burley will now plan ahead for the next qualifying campaign but he will still be under pressure to show that Scotland are indeed heading in the right direction.

The SFA announced that Burley had signed a contract until 2012 when he was unveiled as manager in January last year, but it is understood his deal runs out in July 2010.

The SFA have the option of extending that deal for another two years, which would take the former Ipswich manager up to the European finals in Poland and Ukraine.

Their backing for Burley effectively gives him the go-ahead to take charge of that qualifying campaign, but no agreement has yet been made over the contract extension.

That would give the SFA the potential option to end Burley's tenure without significant compensation before Scotland's next competitive fixture in September 2010.

However, the rhetoric coming from Smith today was upbeat as he claimed there had been "positive signs about aspects of the campaign''.

After making a short statement outside the main entrance of Hampden, the SFA released more detailed comments from their chief executive.

"We all acknowledge that there have been disappointments over the past year and that we have not met our objective to qualify for the World Cup,'' Smith said.

"However, what is also clear is that George and his players have shown that they are moving in the right direction.

"George has been rebuilding his squad and brought through many young players who he feels will bring us success in the years to come. That is why we have today given our full backing to George as Scotland national coach.

"The next competitive match is not for another 12 months and this gives George and his players the chance to continue to grow and develop together. This is not the time for change, it is a time to invest faith in the manager and the players.''

While the SFA statement stressed that continuity was needed, Burley is expected to make some changes following a turbulent 18 months in charge. The Scotland manager admitted in an interview with Sunday newspapers that he would address his backroom staff.

He is unlikely to part company with assistant Terry Butcher, his close friend and former Ipswich team-mate. But coach Steven Pressley's position looks vulnerable amid reports he has failed to bridge a gap between players and management.

However, contrary to many reports, Burley is understood to be keen to continue drawing on the advice of his former Motherwell boss Tommy McLean, who has acted as an observer in the stand during games.

The Scotland boss is expected to outline some of his plans for the future on Wednesday. And he will soon get the chance to back up Smith's assertion that his team are making progress when Scotland face Japan in an away friendly on October 10.

In the meantime, Smith has called for the country to get behind Burley following a fractious campaign which saw Kris Boyd withdraw his services, and both Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor deprived of their Scotland futures following the infamous 'Boozegate' affair.

"If the World Cup campaign has shown us anything it is that we are at our best when we work together,'' Smith said. "It is by standing united behind the manager and the team that we can achieve the success that we all crave.''


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