Alex McLeish has launched a stirring defence of his worth and methods amidst a rising tide of criticism following Scotland’s 2-1 defeat by Israel.
The manager stressed that the fans’ unhappy reaction in Haifa simply made him more determined to get the national side back on track. Supporters were quick to voice their displeasure after Scotland, who had John Souttar sent off after an hour, suffered one of their worst defeats in modern times.
He has called for fans to stick with him and the team as they attempt to recover from the setback. Scotland face an unappetising clash with Ronaldo-less Portugal in a friendly tomorrow evening at Hampden Park before next month’s vital Nations League double-header against Albania and Israel.
“I am a masochist,” said McLeish. “I’ve never flinched from a challenge and I’m not going to start now. No way. The more criticism I get the more determined I will be to turn it around.
“I will probably hear about the criticism coming my way – but I will probably not read it. If there is good information there for me to take, then of course… you can always take that.
“You get kicked and say, ‘I’m going to show everybody’. I need to bounce back and the players need to bounce back.”
He said management was “in his DNA” and he was not going to walk away from the challenge. Handed a two-year contract in February by the Scottish Football Association, there are already calls for him to go after five defeats from his opening seven games. Last month’s win over Albania had appeared to buy him some time but now everything rests on next month’s games. Qualification for the Nations League play-offs and a potential backdoor route into Euro 2020 remains in Scotland’s hands.
“I think your next challenge is always your biggest challenge,” said McLeish. “‘I am determined to see it through and get the team to the level where you guys all like it and the supporters especially.
“That’s my challenge and I have never flinched from a challenge. When people put the boot in I tend to bounce back.
“‘We have slipped down the rankings over a number of years and we have a lot of clawing back to do. Some of it will be clawing back and some of it we hope will see us produce the football we want to see – you never know, but we want to win.
“It’s not all the end of the world,” he added. “It might feel like that now. I don’t feel too good, I will hopefully wake up in the morning with a new perspective.”
McLeish urged fans not to desert the cause. He said he could understand their anger and hinted there might be other contributing factors than just Thursday night’s loss.
“When we don’t win the fans don’t like it,” he said. “I don’t know what the reason for it was, if it was just the defeat. I support the fans. I know what it’s like, I’ve played with Scotland before.
“I’ve been in the crowd as a kid growing up and seen some great games. I’ve also seen some games where we lost and I know the reactions when Scotland don’t win. They love their country, the punters, and we need them.
“But I thought it was a brave performance in the second-half [when Scotland were down to ten men]. Players were trying to get forward and get in the box to get that equalising goal. I didn’t think the effort wasn’t there.”