Gordon Strachan has left his role as Scotland manager after the Scottish Football Association decided “fresh impetus” was required to end a 20-year absence from the big stage.
The governing body announced both parties had decided change was needed, following a board meeting in the wake of Scotland’s failure to make the World Cup play-offs.
Strachan’s contract was due to end next month and his fate was by no means certain after a second near-miss in a qualification campaign.
Scotland finished third in Group F behind Slovakia on goal difference with a 2-2 draw in Slovenia on Sunday seeing them fall just short, but a run of six unbeaten qualifiers led to calls for Strachan to carry on the momentum.
However, the governing body said that board members “agreed that a new national coach should be recruited to provide fresh impetus” and the announcement suggested the decision was mutual. Strachan’s assistant, Mark McGhee, has also left with immediate effect.
In an SFA statement, Strachan said: “I said on my first day as Scotland manager that it was the proudest moment of my career and that I wanted to put a smile back on the nation’s face again. I share the profound disappointment at missing out on the play-offs, especially having worked so hard to fight our way back into contention.
“The players should receive immense credit for that resilience in coming back from a difficult start and I would like to thank each and every player who has come in to represent their country.
“Together we have shared some really magical moments and those memories will live with me forever.
“Of course, what made those moments special was the unwavering support of our fans. Through highs and lows you have stayed with the team and my biggest regret is not being able to provide the finals tournament you deserve.
“I would like to thank the board, the backroom staff and everyone at the Scottish FA for the help and support they have given me as national coach. It has been a real privilege.”
There were times Strachan looked like leading Scotland to at least a play-off in both of the full campaigns he oversaw since succeeding Craig Levein in January 2013.
A draw in Poland and home win over the Republic of Ireland left them in good shape to qualify for Euro 2016 but their opponents both beat Germany and Scotland suffered a fatal defeat in Georgia. And their 1-0 lead over Slovenia on Sunday left them 45 minutes away from a World Cup play-off.
But Strachan’s post-match comments on Scotland being “genetically behind” were not well-received.
SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said: “I know how disappointed he was that we couldn’t secure a play-off place but to come so close was a tribute to the belief he instilled in his squad.
“After almost five years the board felt it was time for a new direction to prepare for the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and also the forthcoming UEFA Nations League.”
Scott Brown, whose absence at either end of the campaign arguably proved crucial, revealed his sadness at the decision on social media and the Celtic midfielder now looks likely to quit international football for a second time.
Thoughts will immediately turn to a successor with former Manchester United and Sunderland boss David Moyes quickly emerging as favourite with several bookmakers.
Malky Mackay, the SFA’s performance director, has also been quoted along with the likes of Paul Lambert, Derek McInnes and Alex McLeish, but the SFA could look further afield than Scotland.