Sources at the governing body say “nothing is off the table” as they seek to identify the right candidate to ensure that Scotland reach the European Championship finals next year.
The decision to sack McLeish as Scotland manager, along with his backroom staff, was taken at an SFA board meeting at Hampden yesterday morning.
The 60-year-old, who had a year left on his contract, had been widely tipped to depart the role ever since Scotland opened their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a calamitous 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan four weeks ago.
SFA sources have emphasised that McLeish’s departure is purely related to the performance levels of the team over the course of the 12 games he took charge of in his second spell as national team boss.
Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers’ Association, was prompted to issue a statement last month insisting McLeish was in good health after rumours he had been suffering from stress.
McLeish had hoped he would be given the chance to turn around the poor start to Group I of Euro 2020 qualifying which saw the humiliation in Kazakhstan followed by a tepid 2-0 win over world football’s whipping boys San Marino.
He was confident of completing a task which had already seen at least a Euro 2020 play-off guaranteed when Scotland finished top of their inaugural Uefa Nations League group in November.
He retained some backing on the seven-person SFA board, notably from president Alan McRae who championed his appointment in February last year along with vice-president Rod Petrie. But there had been a groundswell of opinion that McLeish should be replaced, with which a majority of the board agreed.
SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell is now set to lead the recruitment process to install a new manager ahead of the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Cyprus at Hampden on 8 June and Belgium in Brussels three days later.
Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke is among the early front-runners, although he is also being strongly linked with a move to Fulham. Appointing a non-Scot has not been ruled out, with former Croatia and West Ham United boss Slaven Bilic – currently out of work – among the potential contenders.
The Scottish FA could also consider an internal appointment, with performance director Malky Mackay and under-21 coach Scot Gemmill both serious options.
Maxwell praised McLeish for the manner in which he received the confirmation of his dismissal, which also sees his assistants Peter Grant, James McFadden and Stevie Woods leave the national team set-up.
“On behalf of the board, I would like to place on record my thanks to Alex and his backroom team for their efforts in leading the national team over the past 12 months, not least in topping our Uefa Nations League group and reaching the play-offs,” said Maxwell.
“The decision to part
company was not an easy one, especially given Alex’s status as a Scotland Hall of Fame member, earning 77 international caps, having played in three World Cups and taken charge of the national team for two spells.
“It was only taken after full consideration by the board and after an honest and respectful conversation between myself and Alex earlier in the week. Ultimately, the performances and results as a whole in the past year – and, in particular, the manner of the defeat in Kazakhstan – did not indicate the progress expected with a squad we believe to be capable of achieving more.
“With that in mind, it was agreed that we would seek to recruit a new management team to take us forward for the remainder of the European qualifying campaign.
“At this point I would like to pay tribute to Alex for the good grace with which he has accepted the decision and for remaining unstinting in his support of the team for the remainder of the campaign. It befits his status as a Scotland legend and Hall of Fame inductee.
“We firmly believe we have the potential to recover from the opening group defeat and unlock the potential of this exciting squad of players for the remainder of the campaign, safe in the knowledge we also have the play-offs as an additional route to Uefa Euro 2020.
“With Hampden Park one of the host city venues for the 60th anniversary of the European Championships, we are determined to ensure our supporters can watch the national team participate in Uefa Euro 2020.
“Alex, Peter, James and
Stevie leave with our best wishes for continued
success in the future.”
McLeish expressed his pride at leaving behind what he believes is a platform for Scotland to end their long absence from major tournament finals.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to have managed my country for a second time and leave knowing that I gave my all in the pursuit of
success,” he said.
“I am proud that together we finished top of our Uefa Nations League group and qualified for the Uefa Euro 2020 play-offs, which gives us a real opportunity to reach a major tournament for the first time in over 20 years.
“I am also pleased to have given many younger players a first taste of international football that will stand them – and the country – in good stead for the future.
“I would like to thank those players who showed a passion for wearing the dark blue, my assistants, Peter, James and Stevie, for their contribution over the past year. I would also like to extend my gratitude to the entire national team backroom staff and my friends and colleagues at the Scottish FA.
“Finally, I would like to thank the Scotland fans for their unwavering support of the team and look forward to taking my place among them in the future.”