New Scotland boss Alex McLeish: ‘I see it as a bit of fate’
59-year-old set for second stint in charge after SFA fail to secure Michael O’Neill
Alex McLeish is unveiled by the SFA as the new Scotland manager. Photograph: Mark Runnales
Alex McLeish believes fate played its part in him becoming Scotland manager for the second time after first-choice candidate Michael O’Neill rejected an approach from the Scottish Football Association.
The 59-year-old, who had a 10-game stint in charge of the national team in 2007, met the media at Hampden Park after his appointment was confirmed.
The SFA had originally approached O’Neill to become Gordon Strachan’s successor but he decided to stay as boss of Northern Ireland with McLeish happy to get another chance.
“I see it as a bit of fate,” said the former Scotland defender, who declared himself “thrilled” to be back in the Hampden hot seat with a contract until 2020.
“I see that as it was meant to happen and I have got to make the most of that.
“Michael turned it down and you think, ‘oh wait a minute, it is not over yet’.
“When Michael went in for talks you think he is going to take it because it is, after all, a fantastic job and we are a fantastic nation and Michael lives in this country.
“But he turned it down for his own reasons and that gave me a chance to get in the door.”
McLeish’s appointment is not overwhelmingly popular among Scottish football fans with some of the Tartan Army still unhappy that his first stint ended with him walking away to take over at Birmingham.
However, the former Rangers boss, who will now prepare for friendlies against Costa Rica and Hungary next month, believes he can win them over.
“Sometimes I thought would it never happen again for me, because of leaving, and the circumstances,” he said.
“I understand the divide of some of the supporters but I believe I am the right man to come back.
“I have to prove them wrong. That’s what I am here to do, to get them right behind me and the only way I can do that is by getting this team winning.
“I believe I am not going to be booed when I come back on to the pitch. I know the Tartan Army and I know that the majority are with me. If there is a minority, winning games will get them behind me.”
McLeish revealed he had the backing of his former Aberdeen boss, Sir Alex Ferguson.
“I always speak to Fergie — sorry Sir Alex — about football matters,” he said.
“He’s obviously a very influential man. He’s probably had a word with Alan (McRae, SFA president) and recommended me.
“I was up having lunch with him a couple of weeks ago and he felt it was a great time and a great chance for me to go and do a great job for Scotland.”