Scotland players may have claimed a share of the blame for their disastrous defeat in Wales, but it is manager George Burley who paid the price. Scotland fired the coach last night after the team slumped to an "unacceptable" defeat at Wales in a friendly. Scotland, which hasn't qualified for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup, is now looking for its fifth manager in five years after Berti Vogts, Walter Smith, Alex McLeish and Burley. The Scottish Football Association decided to sack Burley despite backing him in September to remain in charge after the team failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
But, just two months later, Saturday's 3-0 reverse in Cardiff looked to have spelt the end of what has proved to be a difficult reign since his appointment in January 2008. Gordon Smith, the SFA chief executive, said the decision came after a "realisation that the expectations of the supporters, the Scottish FA and George himself, were not being met." Scotland were three goals behind within the opening 35 minutes and furious travelling supporters spent most of the second half venting their anger at Burley and demanding his removal from the job. They got their wish, despite claims from players after the game that they - and not just the manager - should be held responsible for the latest disappointment, which leaves Burley with just three wins in 14 matches.
"The manager is the boss and he is the one who is going to get the stick but it's everybody," Steven Naismith said. "He's not the one who goes out on the park and wins the games - that's the strikers. "And he's not the one who goes out on the park and defends - that's the defenders. Basically, everybody who played has to have a hard look at themselves." Elsewhere, Arsenal's Dutch international striker Robin van Persie confirmed he partially tore ankle ligaments in the friendly against Italy. Van Persie told Dutch television programme Studio Voetbal: "I have had a scan. I am probably out for between four and six weeks." He did, however, absolve Juventus defender Chiellini, who made the tackle that caused the injury, of blame, adding: "There was no intent."
The Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo expects to return to training this week after his ankle injury. "The most important thing for me is to return when I am at 100 percent," the Portuguese international, who will miss tomorrow's World Cup play-off second leg with Bosnia-Herzegovina, told As. "The recovery is well on track." * With agencies