Alex McLeish has shelved any concerns about the short-term damage to his own reputation as Scotland manager in the effort to get the nation to the finals of a major tournament again.
The 1-0 defeat to Mexico in Estadio Azteca in the early hours of Sunday morning was McLeish’s third loss in four games since returning as manager for a second spell. Scotland have scored only once in this time and returned from the Americas with another two defeats after starting their controversial summer tour with a 2-0 loss against Peru in Lima. A demanding-looking friendly against Belgium now lies on the horizon before competitive games resume against Israel and Albania in the Nations League. Scotland also play Portugal in a friendly in October.
According to McLeish personal vanity cannot come into it as he contemplates the fall-out out from a tour that was written off as a worthless exercise by many.
“No doubt there will be some people still not happy,” said McLeish. “I don’t like defeats. It would be great if we took something out of one of the games.
“We could have taken something out of both games. But, in saying that, I am not worried about myself having a great game record, it is about getting this county to a major finals.”
McLeish’s first spell as manager saw him lose only three times in total in ten games. His record of seven victories in that period, including against France in the Parc des Princes, meant he had the best win ratio of any other Scotland manager.
McLeish remains adamant the tour has been instructive and stressed every player has enhanced their reputation in his eyes. Multiple call-offs bedevilled his preparations after he had already struck an agreement with Celtic not to include the majority of their Scotland international players in the squad. Stuart Armstrong and Lewis Morgan were the only Parkhead players named in the original squad and Armstrong withdrew soon after the Scottish Cup final due to injury, as did five others.
McLeish, who blooded nine debutants in total and used every player in the 21-man squad, defended the tour and said he would return to South America again. It is the first time Scotland have played on the continent since the World Cup finals in 1978.
“If we were going to a World Cup and maybe it was being played in, say, the US – and they are bidding with Canada and Mexico for 2026 – then we would have to think about coming and playing a couple of games in South America, with the heat and getting used to altitude.
“By and large you would maybe prepare more at home. But I got nothing but positivity from this group of players.”