Alex McLeish has been appointed as Scotland manager for a second time after signing a contract until 2020.
McLeish, who will replace Gordon Strachan, returns to the role 11 years after leaving for Birmingham City. The BBC says he was the Scottish FA’s “unanimous choice” despite Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill turning down the job last month.
McLeish’s first game in charge will be a friendly against Costa Rica on 23 March at Hampden Park. His first competitive match is against Albania at home in the Uefa Nations League on 10 September.
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As a player McLeish won 77 caps for Scotland and says it’s a “tremendous honour” to manage his country again. In a statement McLeish said: “I am incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to lead my country already and I am immensely proud to be in this position for a second time.
“There is much to be positive about in Scottish football, with players playing at the highest level and promising talent breaking through.
“With Hampden Park as one of the host venues for Euro 2020 we have an amazing opportunity to showcase our talents to the world from our own backyard. I am relishing the challenge of leading us to a major tournament and I cannot wait to get started.”
An ‘exemplary candidate’
Scottish FA (SFA) president Alan McRae added that it was rare to be able to appoint someone with McLeish’s track record, describing him as an “exemplary candidate”. “Alex McLeish is a true Scotland legend and a natural leader who has enjoyed success at club level in Scotland and England and at international level,” he said. “It is a rarity to be in a position to appoint someone who has experience of successfully managing their country and we are delighted to reach an agreement with Alex.”
During the recruitment process, McLeish received “resounding endorsements” from influential figures in the game and this helped establish him as an “outstanding choice” from a strong list of candidates, said McRae.
He added: “Alex has demonstrated a desire and ability to get results with the national team and we believe that he is best placed to inspire our talented group of players to glory. With Hampden Park hosting matches at UEFA Euro 2020 it is more important than ever before for Scotland to qualify for a tournament finals and we believe that Alex is the exemplary candidate to guide us there.”
What the pundits think
While McRae was delighted to name McLeish as Strachan’s successor, former Scotland striker Charlie Nicholas criticised the SFA appointment.
Sky Sports pundit Nicholas said: “Alex – as much as I like him a lot – wasn’t my first choice. I think they should go for someone younger and the most important ingredient is to start building something for the future.
“Dare I say it, [it’s] a little bit like the way England have gone with Gareth Southgate. But I have no problem with Alex being in charge, I’ll be totally supportive, but this committee and this SFA, they are way in the dark ages.
“It’s time that this whole thing was restructured and re-done. I hope what Alex McLeish brings to the table is to sit down with Malky Mackay – people like Derek McInnes, Steve Clarke – all of the Scottish coaches and say it’s time for change at the top of Scottish international football.”
Ex-Hearts and Hibs player Michael Stewart believes that the appointment of McLeish is a “desperate” one by the SFA. Writing on Twitter, Stewart said: “The appointment of Alex McLeish, who I admire and have a lot of time for, strikes me as a desperate one by an organisation on its knees lacking any clarity, leadership or vision of what it wants or needs to do.
“The fact it is doing this at a time when they haven’t a CEO is alarming, but even those still left at Hampden must surely have some awareness this is the wrong course of action at the wrong time. This whole situation is of the SFA own making. Firing the gun without any serious strategic plan in place is a dereliction of duty and they’ve been culpable of this on a grand scale here.”
Meanwhile, Stoke City midfielder Charlie Adam said he was “delighted” to see Mcleish get another chance to manage Scotland. And former Scotland striker Kevin Gallacher believes McLeish has “unfinished business” with the national team.
Gallacher told Sky Sports: “His experience is going to be very key, he’s been there before, he’s done the job, it’s not like he’s new to international management, he understands it.
“From that point of view, he’s going to go there and hopefully, from the experience he had from his short spell before, he can lift the nation and lift the players up to start getting results for the next campaign.”
How the Tartan Army reacted
Scotland fans have had their say on the news. Here’s a selection of the best comments on Twitter:
“Make us proud”.
“A backwards step”.
“He’s walked out on his country before”.
Predicting the future?
Singer Amy Macdonald supports the new boss.
“Not my third choice”.
Even the bookies were critical.
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