Alex McLeish: '˜I'll win over the Tartan Army doubters'

Alex McLeish is convinced he can regain the trust and respect of all Scotland supporters by leading the national team to the European Championship finals in 2020.
New Scotland manager Alex McLeish at his Hampden unveiling. Picture: John DevlinNew Scotland manager Alex McLeish at his Hampden unveiling. Picture: John Devlin
New Scotland manager Alex McLeish at his Hampden unveiling. Picture: John Devlin

The 59-year-old was unveiled as Scotland manager at Hampden yesterday, becoming only the second man after Jock Stein to be handed the position for a second spell.

However, many members of the Tartan Army remain angered by McLeish’s decision to resign first time around in 2007, to take charge of Birmingham City, after less than a year in the job.

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That short spell had seen him guide the national team tantalisingly close to qualification for Euro 2008.

McLeish’s reappointment comes four months after Gordon Strachan was dismissed and follows a protracted and failed bid by the Scottish FA to tempt their number one target, Michael O’Neill, away from Northern Ireland.

Walter Smith, another former Scotland manager, then emerged as a leading contender before withdrawing his candidacy.

That left McLeish, whose case was championed by both Scottish FA vice-president Rod Petrie and former Manchester United manager Sir Alex 
Ferguson, in pole position.

At a meeting of the Scottish FA board this week, he succeeded in persuading them he was the right man for the position and now he is determined to earn the same status in the eyes of the Scotland fans.

“It’s up to me to get them onside,” admitted McLeish.

“If they are a wee bit reticent about me at first, then I just have to get performance levels from the team which are exciting for them. The bottom line is getting the right results.

“It feels a bit surreal today but I do believe I’m the guy for the job.

“When I looked at other guys who have gone back to take charge of their national teams for a second time, like Dick Advocaat and Louis Van Gaal at Holland, I thought ‘yeah, that could be on for me some time’.

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“The opportunity arose and I felt I had to go for it. Because I believe it was my destiny. I feel I have unfinished business with Scotland.

“When I left back in 2007, I did wonder if I would get another chance to rectify that, to be involved in something spectacular in terms of qualifying for a finals.

“It’s looking that way now, because we haven’t been at a tournament for 22 years. It’s something of a massive feat but I think it is within our grasp.

“I believe I’m the right man to do it. Okay, Michael was first choice and he turned it down. But you have to believe in yourself. Since I left to go to England, it’s been a lot of fire-fighting for me as a manager.

“But I also had quite a lot of success in those years and I’ve got a lot of experience. In terms of destiny, I just feel it’s the right time for me. I feel I’m a better manager now. The common sense factor grows in you and you see things from a different way.”

Scottish FA president Alan McRae confirmed that the input of Sir Alex Ferguson, McLeish’s former manager at Aberdeen and long-time mentor, had been a key factor in the decision to give him the job.

“I actually think Alan wanted Sir Alex to be manager but he would never have come back,” smiled McLeish.

“I’m in touch with Sir Alex all the time, he’s always on the end of the phone if I need him. I had lunch with him recently and he thought the Scotland job was ideal for me at this stage. Then, when Michael turned it down, he recommended me to the SFA.

“I already had my name in the ring but he put a word in, saying ‘Why don’t you go for Alex?’. So you can blame him if I fail!”