DCSIMG

'I'm a Rangers man - I couldn't manage another Scottish club'

ALEX McLeish will walk away from Scottish football on the day in May when he leaves Ibrox. On the morning after the sudden and largely unexpected announcement of his forthcoming departure, the Rangers manager admitted he would find it impossible to manage another club in his own country.

McLeish also revealed that his intention to take a lengthy sabbatical from the game means that he will not materialise in any dug-out by the start of next season.

"Whatever anyone else may think, I'm a Rangers man," said McLeish, his general demeanour suggesting that making his severance with the Glasgow club public has brought him instant relief.

"I had a great playing career with Aberdeen and they obviously have a place in my heart, but I'm a Rangers man and, having had the job here at Ibrox, I couldn't manage another Scottish club.

"Of course, I would love to manage in the Premiership in England, but that would not be for some time. I've spoken with my family and we've agreed that a nice break would be best now. I very much doubt if you will see me in a dug-out by next August."

Having held managerial posts at Motherwell and Hibernian as well as Rangers, McLeish's readiness to quit the Scottish game if the opportunity arises is understandable.

His decision to take extended leave is also a powerful hint that the financial compensation he will be due from Rangers - his "rolling" one-year contract entitles him to 12 months' salary - has been settled amicably with his chairman, David Murray. Clearly, he can afford not to work in the foreseeable future.

His insistent eulogising of Murray and the club, too, suggested that he was entirely satisfied with the terms of his severance, with no need for the usual confidentiality agreement that prevents former employees from public disparagement of their place of work.

It is not often in Scottish football, either, that an Old Firm match is reduced by the media to the status of a minority sport. But at Rangers' training and development centre on the outskirts of Glasgow yesterday, the order of business was headed by the need to hear the story behind the story of McLeish's looming exile.

As the first opportunity for voracious reporters to interrogate the man himself, yesterday's session precluded the slightest possibility of tomorrow's match against Celtic at Ibrox taking first place on the agenda.

McLeish fielded the barrage of questions from print journalists and broadcasters with characteristic aplomb, but he did seem noticeably chirpier than of late. That would be expected of anyone coming out from under the yoke of adversity that has pressed on his spirit through most of this trying season.

He revealed that he had spoken with Murray as long ago as last August about the probability of ending his term of office at the end of the present campaign. And he admitted that he might have left Ibrox even a year before that, but was imprisoned by the urge to embellish his domestic success with a hitherto elusive creditable run in Europe.

"Yes, there is a bit of relief that the announcement has been made," said McLeish. "I'm comfortable with it, I'm glad there is now transparency. I spoke with David last August about the possibility of calling it a day at the end of this season.

"We have been talking since then about the shelf-life of managers in jobs such as Rangers. In December, when results hadn't gone well, but we made the last 16 of the Champions League, I met with the chairman at his estate in Perthshire and he asked me then if I wanted to carry on.

"I said yes, absolutely, I'd like to see it through to the end of the season. I had thought at the start of the season that a good show in Europe would be the target, although not at the expense of the domestic game. It's just proved difficult to challenge on all the other fronts.

"Having spoken with my family last summer about the possibility of even going then, we decided to give it another season. And Europe was the main reason I stayed on. We hadn't distinguished ourselves there over the years and I wanted to put that right."

McLeish insisted that he had no regrets about what he called "a fantastic experience" and no resentment about the chairman's failure to provide him with the kind of buying power that had been made available to his predecessors, Dick Advocaat, Walter Smith and Graeme Souness.

Astonishingly, McLeish in his four years in the job shows an overall profit on purchases and sales of 14 million. Advocaat, for example, had a deficit in excess of 50 million.

The outgoing manager also stressed that, even if Murray were to arm him with "a pot of money" at the end of this season, he would not have stayed on.

"I knew when I took the job that it was a time of cost-cutting," he said. "But, when you get that offer, what do you do? You don't turn down Rangers. I was the right man at the right time. Now the club is on a better financial footing and if that means somebody coming after me benefits, so be it.

"The most important thing in all of this is not me, or David Murray, or any other individual, but that Rangers go on to better things." Almost as a footnote, McLeish confirmed that, despite his impulsive promise to make significant changes in the team who lost to Aberdeen on Wednesday, there will, in fact, be few, if any, for the visit of Celtic.

"There may be a change or two, though I won't tell you who they'll be," he said.

"I know what I said immediately after the game at Pittodrie, but, when you calm down and look at things in the cold light of day, you think, what can I change?

"I hope the players relax now that my situation is in the open. But the main thing they have to do is be true to themselves and keep battling on."

 
 
 

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