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By ESPN Staff
Sep 16, 2009

Burley insists: I never feared Scotland axe

George Burley insists he never feared being sacked as Scotland boss, despite suggesting his players had saved his skin in the final two World Cup qualifiers.

Burley's future was thrown into doubt after he failed to lead the country into the play-offs for next summer's finals in South Africa.

The 53-year-old initially looked like a dead man walking after the defeat to Holland seven days ago, but he this week managed to convince his Scottish Football Association employers to give him a second chance.

Burley admitted it had been "quite an emotional, stressful few weeks'', but asked if he had ever feared losing his job, he replied: "Fear's not a word I've even thought about. I was proud of the team coming off the field against Holland, even though we didn't get into the play-offs.

"That was important to me; coming off the pitch with pride in front of a capacity crowd at Hampden was very important, and thankfully the boys did it and they showed their passion for the country. Now we've got to keep doing it in every game we play.''

The decision to keep faith with Burley, despite his record of only three wins from 12 matches, has divided the nation. the former Ipswich and Hearts boss accepts there will be those incredulous that he has avoided the axe but only because they had no faith in him in the first place.

"Of course there'll be some people who will say maybe, 'You don't deserve to be in the job','' said Burley. "But they said that before I took over as national coach so I don't think much has changed.''

Burley insisted he now had the "full support'' of the SFA, despite ambiguous comments from their president, George Peat, in recent weeks.

"There's been a lot of speculation and it was important that things were cleared up as quickly as possible,'' said Burley, who revealed his meeting with the SFA on Monday had lasted no more than half an hour. I has a meeting with the SFA on the Monday, expressed my views on the campaign and what way we were going to go forward: things that were working, maybe things that weren't. So I think that was good.

"Thankfully, they've given me full support to carry on, so now's the time to look ahead, look to the future, try to build on the performances we had in the last two games at Hampden. I think we've got a good squad, a squad that has got stronger as the campaign has gone on, and hopefully we can keep developing it.''

Peat had said he would regard finishing third in Group Nine as a failure.

Burley said: "We did fail to qualify, so I can't argue against that. But there have been a lot better managers than myself for Scotland who haven't qualified as well, because it's very difficult. As a team, if you're getting weaker, then you're starting to worry. But we were definitely getting stronger - there was more unity in the camp.''

He added: "The last year and a half has sort of been up and down. It was important for me to try to get used to the players, the players used to myself, and build on it. That takes time and I think there was a lot of evidence in the last two games to say that we are moving in the right direction. It's never easy qualifying for major championships; we've got to do better for the next one.''

Burley has admitted to making mistakes during his reign but he is adamant he is a better manager now than he was when he took the job.

"I don't think there's anybody - whether it's a manager, a coach or a player - who doesn't make mistakes,'' said Burley, speaking at Castlehead High School, Paisley, one of the Scottish FA's Schools of Football. But that doesn't stop you making the decisions which you think are right for the team or the country.

"As a club manager, I always wanted to learn; this is a new type of scenario, me being a national coach. When you look at it as a whole, we have improved, we've got a stronger unit of players, I feel I'm a stronger national manager than I was a year and a half ago.''

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