ALEX McLeish is to cut short his Belgian adventure, revealing yesterday that he will quit Genk at the end of the season.
The former Scotland manager announced that he will stand down from the job he accepted last August and not take up the option of another season, after the disappointment of Genk not making it into the Jupiler Proleague’s top six.
Although it was stated when McLeish joined Genk seven months ago, that he had signed a two-year deal, the agreement was actually a year with a year’s option. However, the potential absence of European football next season has brought a change of heart from the Genk hierarchy and McLeish.
The former Rangers, Hibernian and Motherwell manager had been out of work for 18 months after a brief 40-day stay at Nottingham Forest in 2013, when he was finally given the chance last August of working abroad.
Genk were in 14th place with only three points when McLeish arrived. Although he and assistant Alex Rae, the former Rangers player, turned around a side that included another of his old Ibrox signings, Thomas Buffel, a seventh-place finish before the league split was a blow for European perennials Genk. McLeish’s side lost out to Charleroi for sixth place on goal difference. The top four sides earn a European passport and Genk are now involved in a complex series of matches and play-offs for a Europa League slot.
“I have decided not to extend my contract,” McLeish said. “This challenge revitalised me. I am proud to have worked with a group that evolved mentally, tactically and technically.
“I’m proud to have finished with a win average of 46 per cent. With 49 points, we took four points higher than last season. Communicating my decision now clarifies things and allows us to focus to get a ticket for the Europa League.”
Genk stated that they “respect the decision of McLeish and that this gives the club the opportunity to talk confidentially with candidates for next season”.
Genk also praised the work of the 56-year-old Scot. “The club is well aware that Alex has to work in difficult circumstances. His positivism and contribution to team spirit contributed to our improvement. His faith in youth was also greatly appreciated.”
McLeish’s five years at Ibrox were his most successful spell in management, winning the treble in 2002-03 amidst two league titles, two Scottish Cups and three Scottish League Cups.
He also won the 2010-11 English League Cup with Birmingham City, and led Scotland to one of their greatest results when they defeated France 1-0 in Paris in the Euro 2008 qualifiers.
However, the former Aberdeen defender also had a wretched 11 months at Aston Villa in 2011-12, just staving off the drop. “I was pretty drained after that Villa year,” he said. “I had to get the enjoyment back.”
Genk, though, are a selling club who have cashed in on Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne and Christian Benteke to English clubs. “It was a rebuilding job here when I came,” McLeish stated.
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