The Smith & McLeish Years (2005-2007)

The two front-runners for the Scotland manager's post after Vogts resigned were Gordon Strachan, who was successful at Southampton, and former Rangers and Everton manager Walter Smith. On 2nd December 2004, Walter Smith was appointed as Scotland's new manager, and Ally McCoist became coach, with Tommy Burns remaining as assistant manager. One of the first things that he did as national manager was entice David Weir out of international retirement for Smith's first game in charge away to Italy in the San Siro. Two free-kicks from Pirlo gave Italy a 2-0 win. The following game was a 2-0 victory at home to Moldova with goals from Christian Dailly and James McFadden, before a 0-0 draw away to Belarus. When Italy came to Hampden, a much-improved Kenny Miller coached by Ally McCoist, put Scotland ahead, but a late equaliser meant the game finished 1-1. Four days later Kenny Miller put Scotland 2-0 up away to Norway, but a minute from time Norway pulled one back to make it 2-1. With only two games remaining, Scotland were only two points off second place, which meant that there was some belief that Scotland could do what after three games seemed impossible, and qualify for the play-offs. These hopes were ended in the next game when Scotland went down 1-0 at home to Belarus in a shock result. Four days later Scotland put in a fine performance to gain an impressive 3-0 win away to Slovenia, with goals from Darren Fletcher, James McFadden, and Paul Hartley to finish the qualifying campaign on a high. It made people wonder what would have happened if Walter Smith had taken over sooner.

Kenny Miller celebrates his first goal against Norway in the 2-1 victory in Oslo.

The following May, Scotland were invited to take part in the Kirin Cup in Japan, where they would play Japan and Bulgaria. In the first game Scotland beat Bulgaria 5-1, and both debutants Kris Boyd and Chris Burke scored a double, with James McFadden scoring the other. In the final game Scotland drew 0-0 with the hosts to win their first trophy since the 1985 Rous Cup.

In the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, Scotland were drawn in the “Group of Death” with both World Cup finalists Italy and France, and quarter-finalists Ukraine. In their first game they destroyed the Faroe Islands 6-0 at Parkhead, with goals from Fletcher, McFadden, Boyd(2), Miller, and O'Connor. That was followed with a 2-1 win away to Lithuania, with Christian Dailly and Kenny Miller the scorers. A month later, the mighty France visited Hampden and a second half goal by Gary Galdwell gave Scotland one of their greatest results of all time, winning 1-0. Four days later Scotland lost their 100% record when they lost 2-0 away to Ukraine.

Craig Gordon and Gary Caldwell celebrate at the final whistle as Scotland defeat France 1-0 at Hampden.

In January 2007, Rangers parted company with manager Paul Le Guen, and immediately Walter Smith was being linked to the position. On 10th January, Walter Smith quit his post as Scotland manager to be appointed Rangers manager. Ally McCoist joined him as his assistant. The two main candidates to take Smith's place were current assistant Tommy Burns, who was also Vogts' assistant; and former Rangers manager, and Scotland legend Alex McLeish. McLeish was appointed on 29th January, with Andy Watson his assistant, and former captain Roy Aitken as coach. Tommy Burns had earlier quit his role as assistant as the SFA did not contact him about the manager's role.

In McLeish's first game as manager, Scotland were at home to Georgia, where they went ahead through Kris Boyd, before former Ranger Shota Arveladze equalized. It looked like the match would finish all square before Craig Beattie scored the winner in the last minute. Four days later Scotland travelled to Italy where a Luca Toni double won it 2-0 for Italy. For the next two games, Garry O'Connor was recalled after going AWOL before the Ukraine match. He repaid McLeish's loyalty by scoring the winning goal in a 1-0 friendly win over Austria in Vienna. A week later, Scotland were visiting the dreaded hill in the Faroes where they had drawn their previous two matches. Two first half goals from Maloney and O'Connor assured that Scotland go home with a 2-0 victory.

Craig Beattie scores a late winner against Georgia to win 2-1 in Alex McLeish's first game in charge.

The next qualifier was at home to Lithuania where a Kris Boyd header put Scotland ahead. Lithuania equalised with a penalty after a dive from Hearts' player Mikoliunas. Two late goals from McManus and McFadden sealed a 3-1 win. Four days later Scotland travelled to Paris to play group leaders France. Midway through the second half a fantastic shot from 35 yards by McFadden went in to the top corner and gave Scotland a 1-0 victory, their greatest result of all time, and put Scotland top of Group B. A month later Ukraine came to Hampden needing at least a point to keep their hopes of qualification alive. Scotland got off to a great start when Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch put Scotland 2-0 up after ten minutes. Shevchenko pulled one back midway through the first half, before James McFadden sealed the win in the second half to make it 3-1 to Scotland. Four days later, with the whole nation on a high, Scotland's run of six consecutive wins came to an end when a poor performance away to Georgia resulted in a 2-0 defeat. This meant that Scotland had to beat Italy at Hampden in their final game to qualify. A draw would mean that Scotland would need the Ukraine to defeat France in Kiev. The Italy game was built-up to be possibly the biggest match in Scotland's history, with most of the Scotland fans positive that Scotland would get at least a draw. The match did not get off to a good start as Italy took the lead after only 70 seconds. Scotland deservedly equalised after 65 minutes when a loose ball in the Italian box was prodded home by captain Barry Ferguson. It looked like it was going to finish 1-1 when in injury-time Panucci struck a cruel blow to give Italy an undeserving 2-1 win, and end Scotland's qualification hopes. Even although Scotland would not be playing at Euro 2008, the Scotland team had restored pride in the nation. Ten days later McLeish resigned to take over at Birmingham City.

James McFadden celebrates after scoring his famous goal which defeated France 1-0 in Paris.