ALEX McLeish is dreaming of a return to the English Premier League to fully achieve his potential with no constraints as the curtain prepares to come down on his Belgian adventure.
The former Rangers and Scotland boss had mixed fortunes with both Birmingham City and Aston Villa when he worked under trying circumstances – as well as a quite disastrous short spell with Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
If I was going back to England I would like to get something where someone would put a bit of trust in meAlex McLeish
However, having worked a minor miracle at KRC Genk the 56-year-old has regained his zest for football management and would love one of England’s Premier League owners to put their faith in him.
McLeish has chosen to quit Genk at the end of this season halfway through a two-year contract because he is uncomfortable working with technical director Dimitri de Conde and felt he was not given full licence to run the club his way.
He still has an outside chance of qualifying the team for the Europa League through the complicated Belgian play-off system and that would be a remarkable achievement.
McLeish had no money to spend, inherited a squad in turmoil and lost many of his top players to injury but produced a run of results in the regular season that was championship-challenging material.
He said: “If I was going back to England I would like to get something where someone would put a bit of trust in me rather than a fire-fighting project.
“If you look at my time with Rangers when we were able to prepare properly we did well.
“I obviously inherited a good set of quality players and I got the best out of them that Dick Advocaat wasn’t getting any more.
“When we had the full pre-season together we went on to win the treble. Then in 2004-05 I was able to get Jean-Alain Boumsong and Dado Prso in and that gave us a spine to work with and with some good strengthening in January we went on to win the league again.
“But if you look at my time in England it was all about fire-fighting – even Villa. It was the right club but the wrong time.
“I have already been approached to work in countries outside of Europe so I need to think about what I want to do because I have a wee grandson now.
“There is loads of potential in the Middle East and America, for example, but maybe Europe or England would be better if I get a really good opportunity.”
In Belgium the top six play each other home and away for the title and the main European places, carrying forward half of their points totals from the 30-game regular season.
The next eight clubs split into two groups of four in which they play their opponents home and away and the winner of each group plays off for the right to face the fourth-placed team for a Europa League slot.
It’s a complicated set-up and McLeish’s side just missed out on Play-Off 1 and have two games left in Group A of Play-Off 2 to try to edge Mechelen who are level on points but have a better goal difference.
He lamented: “In the regular season we shared the best defensive record with Bruges so it was a lack of goals that cost us.
“It’s the story of my life. I haven’t had a striker since Ronald de Boer.
“We probably need Mechelen to slip in one of their two remaining games because of the goal difference.
“Most people felt it was the weakest squad Genk have had in the last ten years but we got to 49 points – the same as Charleroi – but Charleroi won one game more than us.
“I inherited a group of boys who had been in a bit of turmoil and I got them calm again and got the best out of them.
“I never added anyone to the squad or spent any money.
“So I feel I have done well and I think it was a brilliant effort by the boys. We were never given a prayer by anyone and the pundits were saying how we got to that position was ridiculous.”