Alex McLeish has stressed qualifying for a Euro 2020 play-off place is only the beginning as the manager underlined his commitment to the Scotland post.
Tuesday night’s tense 3-2 win over Israel secured Scotland’s involvement in a play-off for a major finals for the first time since 2003.
McLeish knows it could easily have been very different.
With positive vibes being felt around the country it is a very different scenario to that being envisaged last week amid a raft of call-offs prior to the final two Nations League qualifiers against Albania and Israel.
But two wins, seven goals and the knowledge a play-off place for Euro 2020 has been secured whatever happens in the standard qualifying campaign next year means a previously under pressure McLeish can look to the future in good heart.
It would only have taken a late equaliser for Israel on Tuesday to throw the manager’s future into serious doubt.
There was some speculation he was preparing to walk away whatever happened. McLeish has firmly dismissed this rumour.
“I am only just getting started!” he said yesterday. “If it didn’t go well on Tuesday night it would obviously be a bit of a different interview. But I would [still] be telling you I have only just started. “The qualification games are the ones that mattered.”
“I am determined,” he added. “I have got a contract. I am not going to walk out after four or five games because people are shouting at me or moaning at me and there is a little bit of negativity on social media.
“That doesn’t make me want to quit.”
McLeish has bounced back to win three out of four competitive games after an underwhelming and admittedly challenging start to his second spell in charge which included a summer tour to Peru and Mexico.
“Football is really fickle nowadays isn’t it?” he said. “You are judged early doors – two or three results and it is crisis. We played five friendlies and have only played four competition games. “I am only getting started. I just need a bit of slack.
“After the last defeat [versus Israel in Haifa] I didn’t feel very good for 24 hours,” he added. “But as soon as I get back in the next day I am hard at it again. I want to prove everybody wrong who was doubting me.
“That was the key and it has always been the key. Whenever you get knocked down you have to get back up. I have done that loads of times in my career.”
Many of these sceptics existed among the Scotland supporters. McLeish is convinced he has won over the Tartan Army after reservations were expressed following his return as manager considering the way he left last time around.
These misgivings intensified amid a series of poor results. But the players – and manager – were given a rousing ovation during a lap of honour after the final whistle on Tuesday.
“We celebrated with the fans,” said McLeish. “It is something we haven’t done for a wee while. We put one foot in the door of the Euros. But we know there is still work to be done. “At the end of the day the only way you can get folk to support you is to win. We have won two in a row there, back-to-back.”
Rather than face calls for his removal, which undoubtedly would have been the case had his side failed to win against Israel, McLeish can stride purposefully into Dublin’s Convention Centre a week on Sunday, when the Euro 2020 qualifying draw takes place. Scotland know they have another chance to qualify whoever they are drawn against.
“We want to qualify from the group as well,” stressed McLeish. “We have got to target that. We can’t just rely on this play-off thing. We want to qualify from the group.
“Now the players have got a wee bit of momentum,” he added. “You can’t preclude that you will lose players, and lose some of your good ones, at certain moments. “That can obviously be difficult. It can be hard to keep the momentum and keep winning.
“But we believe the way we have come through these two games everybody will be desperate to come back and play for Scotland.”