FORMER Hibs star Chic Charnley has labelled his old Easter Road manager Alex McLeish as "one of the luckiest team bosses around," claiming he's enjoyed more than his fair share of good fortune.
One of McLeish's first acts after succeeding Jim Duffy – a close friend of Charnley's – as Hibs boss was to get rid of the controversial midfielder, although the wayward ace admits he didn't help himself by not turning up to his new manager's first two training sessions.
But, while insisting he didn't blame McLeish for wielding the axe and that, to this day, he doesn't hold it against him, Charnley claims McLeish has enjoyed good luck as boss of Motherwell, Hibs, Rangers and Scotland.
Charnley's departure from Easter Road quickly followed that of Duffy following a dream start to a season in which the player scored a memorable winner against Celtic on the opening day – a match which marked Henrik Larsson's debut for the Hoops – rapidly turned into a nightmare.
It all culminated in Duffy being sacked following a 6-2 defeat, ironically by McLeish's Motherwell and, although the former Aberdeen defender took over in Edinburgh, Hibs ended up being relegated.
And Charnley takes exception at Duffy being blamed for Hibs' demise, insisting: "McLeish had plenty of time to stop the club from going into freefall and hurtling towards relegation.
"He became boss in February with lots of games to play and turn things around. He didn't manage that and I seem to recall he said it was Duff's team that went down. I'm not buying into that. No way. It was Alex McLeish's team that got relegated, let there be no mistake about that."
McLeish, of course, took Hibs back into the SPL in one season, the Easter Road side romping to the First Division title with 89 points, 33 ahead of second-placed Falkirk.
Even so, Charnley claims in his book "Seeing Red" that anyone could have got Hibs promoted after just one year. He said: "McLeish was given cash to spend by the board and he was able to bring in the likes of Franck Sauzee and Russell Latapy. They shone in the First Division and the plaudits went to McLeish.
"I'm not so sure they were entirely deserved."
According to Charnley, though, McLeish's good fortune had begun when he took over from Tommy McLean at Fir Park, inheriting a team which was challenging Celtic and Rangers and just needed to be pointed in the right direction.
Charnley said: "If you examine things a bit more closely and clinically, you will see the part he played in the club's downward spiral. Certainly, the Fir Park support wasn't happy with him and he got it in the neck on more than a few occasions. Hibs offered him an escape route and he was more than happy to take it.
"And when Rangers came calling I believe Dame Fortune smiled on him once again."
McLeish won the treble in his first year at Ibrox but, again Charnley insists, he was blessed with good fortune, with a "real hit-or-miss" strike from Bert Konterman setting Rangers on their way to glory with a CIS Cup semi-final win over Celtic. "If I ever needed convincing that McLeish was blessed it came with that effort," said Charnley. "Konterman wasn't exactly the greatest passer of the ball so when he belted one into the roof of the net from about 35 yards with a first-time effort you had to believe that someone up there liked Big Eck."
Many may take Charnley's opinions with a pinch of salt given he was shown the door at Easter Road, the man of many clubs admitting he never saw eye-to-eye with McLeish, citing a previous encounter in which, he says, McLeish described him as "just like a bad penny," an accusation he hotly denies.
He went on: "I knew McLeish didn't fancy me. The board might as well have thrown me out with Duff and Jackie (McNamara, his assistant] when they brought him in.
"I don't suppose I helped my case by not bothering to turn up for training on the Monday. I didn't go in on Tuesday either."
Well aware he could be accused of simple sour grapes, Charnley insisted: "I realise this may come across as someone with a chip on his shoulder, someone who was given his P45 by McLeish, but it is an honest opinion.
"When I say he is one of the luckiest team bosses around please don't think I am having a go at him just for the sake of it.
"That is most certainly not the case but I do believe Big Eck has had more than his fair share of good fortune as a manager. To blame Duff for Hibs' relegation is ridiculous when you consider McLeish had so many games to turn things round.
"When things started to go awry at Ibrox he was shifted for Paul le Guen to take over and once more McLeish landed on his feet when he got the Scotland international manager's job.
"He received massive kudos for the victory against France in the European Championship qualifiers but we still didn't qualify for the finals. McLeish's stock rose accordingly and it was sufficient for Birmingham City to come in and take him across the Border.
"The luck ran out in his first season down there and, of course, the Midlands outfit were relegated although they were promoted a year later.
"If Jim Duffy had enjoyed the same sort of fortune as Alex McLeish I have absolutely no doubt he would be managing in the top-flight. And making a success of it, too."
• Seeing Red: The Chic Charnley Story by Chic Charnley with Alex Gordon is published by Black and White Publishing, priced 14.99.