Vogts not soured by his spell in charge of Scotland team

By Richard WilsonBBC Scotland
Former Scotland manager Berti Vogts
Former Scotland manager Berti Vogts

The passing years have separated Berti Vogts from the more painful details of his time in charge of Scotland.

The German has no inclination to dwell on rejection, which turned out to be the theme of his managerial reign, and his instinct instead is to describe every setback as "no problem".

He ought to have been a revolutionary figure for Scottish football. A World Cup winner as a player, an integral coaching influence at the German FA - 18 members of the 1990 World Cup winning squad were coached at youth level by Vogts - and he guided his home nation to glory at Euro 96.

From his arrival in Scotland, though, there was little sense of Vogts and his adopted country being well matched. He struggled with the language, although laughs now at the recollection that his English teacher was Irish and his "translation was not so good".

Even an attempt to break down cultural barriers at his opening press conference was awkward, as he described himself as "Berti McVogts".

Former Scotland manager Berti Vogts and James McFadden
Vogts brought McFadden into the Scotland fold and was rewarded with moments of brilliance

"It's not a shame for me when people ask me about McVogts," he said, looking back. "No problem."

Regrets cannot be wholly dismissed, though, and Vogts admits to making an initial mistake by taking charge of the Scotland team straight away, for a pre-arranged friendly away to France. He was only with the squad for three days, and the 5-0 scoreline was an accusation against his ability to work with Scottish players as much as a humbling.

"Maybe it was not a good idea to sit on the bench against the French team, but that was my mistake" he said. "It was a disaster for me to lose 5-0 against the French, what can I do in three days of training? Maybe I [get to] know the names. Some journalist were looking [and thinking], 'maybe a Scottish guy could take over'."

In a sense, Vogts was never able to overcome that mindset once it was established. There were positive aspects of his time in charge, such as the likes of Darren Fletcher and James McFadden being introduced to the squad and a 1-0 win over Holland at Hampden in the Euro 2004 play-offs.

Yet depths were plumbed, too, including a 6-0 reverse in Amsterdam, the defeat to France and a 2-2 draw with the Faroe Islands. The latter result, and Vogts' subsequent criticism of Davie Weir, led to the Scotland defender temporarily quitting international football.

"That was his [Weir's] decision and he was only looking, 'okay I can only train in the mornings and then afternoons you have to change'," Vogts said. "I have respect for that. It's not a problem. I understand [when] players say, 'I don't like this', but I'm the coach, I'm the number one and I have to tell the boys what they have to do."

To many in Scottish football, Vogts devalued the worth of a Scotland cap, since he called up so many players simply to assess them. His intention was to bring in younger players who were quicker, more mobile and more athletic, but he also cast aside the importance of experience.

Vogts was applying sound principles, but not taking into account the circumstances in which he found himself. He instinctively knew the merits of young German players because he had worked with so many of them, but there was a haphazard feel to the way that he trawled Scots to find some suitable to play for the national team.

One bold move fell short, though, when Vogts tried to persuade Wayne Rooney to play for Scotland. "It was coming from Sir Alex [Ferguson], he told me [Rooney's] grandma is Scottish," the German said. "I drove to Everton and I asked him the question. He said, 'I'm English, I'm English'.

"I met him three years ago, I was in Manchester watching the [United] youth academy - I had a very nice time with Sir Alex - and [Rooney] came up to me and said, 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry'. I said, 'you made the right decision'."

Idealism was misplaced, because Vogts wanted to reinvigorate Scottish football but without enough of an understanding of the quality at his disposal. Fletcher and McFadden were lasting successes, but other players featured only briefly, like Warren Cummings, Scott Dobie and Gareth Williams.

There ought to have been more considered decision-making, but Vogts was bold enough to entrust young players. McFadden rewarded him with some memorable individual moments on the field, but also the impetuosity of youth, since he missed Scotland's flight home from a Far East tour.

"You know James," said Vogts. "Normally some players have a watch, but maybe James lost his. He was a little bit late, that was all, then he came two days later.

"That's a young boy, that's okay, that's not a problem. I know the media are always looking for a good story, and a bad story is a good story.

"For James, he came back home and then his girlfriend was looking for him. The time was not so easy for James, but he's a good boy. He was a cheeky, tricky boy."

For two years, Vogts always seemed to just have a loose authority. There was never a moment when he took command of the position.

There was an undercurrent of resistance. Many might have felt that it was an indictment of Scottish coaching talent that the manager of the national team was a foreigner. This is a short-sighted view, but the growing sense was that Scotland had the wrong man at the helm, regardless of his nationality.

A 4-0 defeat by Wales in a friendly undermined Vogts, and one newspaper offered to buy his flight ticket back to Germany. Then fans reacted angrily to a 1-1 draw in Moldova in the World Cup 2006 qualifying campaign.

Scotland fan reacts to Berti Vogts
A Scotland fan reacts to Scotland's 1-1 draw away to Moldova, the game that led to Vogts' departure

Vogts was sitting in the stand because of a disciplinary ban, and afterwards there were claims that some fans spat at him. Fury was evident, and in the statement that accompanied his departure, Vogts said that he would never manage again because of the treatment.

He does not allow recrimination to cloud his recollections, and time will have healed the psychological wounds. Vogts continues to visit Scotland every year, and is not bitter about his treatment.

"I was 14 years a player and 21 years I worked for the German Football Association and you have a lot to do with the press," Vogts said.

"You have to accept this. When you have no good results, the press attack you. That's normal in this part of the world.

"I had a good time in Scotland and I tell you, the people are so friendly to me. Also at this time, when the press attacked me, all the people in the street were so friendly to me.

"There was a never a fan spitting at me, never. Bad words, [but] that's normal. It was not a great atmosphere [against Moldova], not a good match and we didn't do well.

"Then you have to accept it. [But] it's okay to be a foreign player, but why not a foreigner coach?"

Managing Scotland, Saturdays during the summer, 15:00 BST, BBC Radio Scotland.