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Alex McLeish: The biggest priority for Rangers is to get promotion

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[media-credit name=”Pic: Actionplus” align=”alignleft” width=”275″][/media-credit]Former Rangers and Scotland manager Alex McLeish has spoken exclusively to Yahoo Sports on the recent goings on at Rangers and Scotland.

McLeish, who managed Rangers between 2001 and 2006, sympathised with what current manager Ally McCoist has went through at the club during his short tenure.

But he claims that this could be the making of the former Rangers striker, McLeish said: “Even at the best of times as a Rangers manager you have to play with politics and Ally has had to do it more than most. He has been a cheerleader, a master politician and also said some wise things in terms of being the custodian of the club at present.

“I am sure that this could be the making of McCoist as a manager with all this heavy duty experience he has had over the past few months since taking over from Walter Smith. It will stand him in good stead. He can look back in two or three years and say that I needed to go through that to be the manager that I am today.

“I think he has handled it well, I have got a lot of time for him and he is a Rangers die hard. Lets hope he gets what all Rangers fans crave which is consistent results.”

On the current situation at Rangers itself, McLeish labelled it as a ‘saga’, he continued: “It has been a saga for a couple of years now and I think it has settled down a little bit from the point of view that Rangers know where they are now. They have won their first away game which they have found so difficult to overcome because of mentalities.”

While everyone is looking at Rangers, as an SPL side with SPL players in its ranks, it’s not the same Rangers side as last year. McLeish pointed out the players that Rangers lost over the summer, such as Naismith, Davis and McGregor, due to the demise of the club both on and off the park.

He added: “We can’t forget that they have lost a lot of quality and that is not to say that the young boys that have come through don’t have quality. The question is can these young boys play for Rangers and can some of the acquisitions that they got in the summer play for Rangers. It is not easy to play for Rangers or Celtic because of the demands and pressure on these players to win every week.”

Given the results over the past few months in the cup and in the league, McLeish questioned if some have the mentality to win week on week. He said: “It is not in some players mentality to win week after week after week. It can become tiresome and they can’t get used to the winning habit.”

The goal for Rangers, according to McLeish, is nothing short of promotion to the Second Division despite the current talk f league reconstruction.

He continued: “For me Rangers should have no other target this season other than getting promoted. Of course it would be nice to see them winning a trophy as well but I think that the biggest priority for Rangers is to get promotion. It is a shame that such a massive club and institution like Rangers are in the position that they are in.”

Since their demise Rangers have entered the Third Division, after being blocked entry to the Scottish Premier League and have also been hit with a 12-month transfer embargo. But McLeish claimed that there had to be a punishment for Rangers but that the club should have fallen on their own sword before being pushed on it.

He said: “I thought Rangers should maybe of made their own destiny and said look just relegate us, we will take our punishment. There without question had to be punishment due to the tax discrepancies but it was sad to hear the other SPL clubs all say that they didn’t want Rangers in the league when they were asked.

“I would of liked Rangers to have said we will go down because we know what the other clubs will say and probably Rangers would of reacted in the same way if it was someone else.”

But while the likes of Charles Green and elements of the Rangers support blame opposition clubs and fans for the club being blocked entry into the SPL, McLeish does not blame them, he added: “I have certainly not got any anger with opposition fans or clubs because they were doing what was in their best interests. People say perhaps not financially but for the morality of the game Rangers are where they are now.”

With pundits stating the demise of Rangers, would signal the demise of Scottish football as a whole, McLeish was asked what the knock on effect would be on Scottish football over the next few years, but while it was easy for some to state that it was Armageddon for our game, McLeish was far more realistic and possibly diplomatic also.

McLeish said: “That remains to be seen, it is a difficult one to guess. I don’t think there has been the fall out that was anticipated amongst the other clubs. I don’t think that any of them are on the verge of bankruptcy because Rangers have gone out of the league. That theory was muted by certain people but it depends on end of season figures.

“I am not asking for Rangers to be fast tracked back but there is a feeling that the league needs to be reconstructed for the viewers sake. For example we could just have two divisions which is a possible way to get Rangers back to the mainstream but that maybe isn’t just for the sake of getting Rangers back in the top flight but maybe for the benefit of Scottish football.

Despite the others now battling Celtic for the top spot, McLeish is adamant despite the Parkhead side slipping up in recent weeks,they will be strong for the rest of the clubs

He added: “Well there is still one Old Firm team there and you should imagine that Celtic will win the league comfortably although the results over the last few weeks have been very competitive. Celtic lost to Kilmarnock at home and then last week drew at Dundee United after being two goals up which is a very competitive stat. If the other teams can keep that kind of pace up and be a big threat to Celtic it would make the league much more interesting and give them confidence to say do we need Rangers and Celtic. It is my opinion that Scotland needs both clubs, but in Rangers absence from the Premier League in Scotland I believe Celtic will be too strong because of their resources and the quality that they have but the league has surprised everyone so far.”

The former Scotland manager also commented on the sacking of Craig Levein, laying the demise of Scotland under Levein on players not playing at the be of their abilities, a horrendous refereeing decision against Wales and the scrutiny that goes with the Scotland job if you lose games.

McLeish, who left Scotland in 2007 to take up the managerial post at Birmingham City, added: “It is hard to put your finger on it because we did go for the two home games to try and get off to a flyer. Playing against a transitional Serbian team you know that these players will always be good technically good and that you can never say you will beat them. I felt that we chose those games because we wanted to get four or six points in the first two games and unfortunately we under achieved.

“That didn’t help Craig Levein, who I know has been sowing some seeds at grassroots level in trying to help the younger generation and time will tell if that has worked.

“The problem with the national team at the very top level is that when you lose games your job is under scrutiny which intensifies the pressure. I think that some players did not achieve the level performance that they are capable of and we just needed inspiration in those first four games.

“The Wales game was dreadfully unlucky when the second goal was disallowed by a horrendous refereeing decision. That would of put Scotland two goals up and I don’t think Wales would have comeback from that but at 1-0 the other team is always in it. We capitulated unfortunately. In the famous Scottish victories of the past we have also dug deep and put in an inspirational performance where the defenders have been resolute and had a Mo Johnson or Joe Jordan or Kenny Dalglish scoring the winning goal. That was a long time ago though in more recent times James McFadden has been our maverick.”

With the Tartan Army and Scotland turning on Levein, McLeish was full of praise for the beleaguered Rangers fans who have had to go through the demise of their club as an SPL championship challenging side to a side now in the bottom tier of the Scottish game..

He said: “I have had a few emails from old Rangers pals of mine who are business minded and have got investment in Rangers saying you could see that uprising coming with the fans turning out in force. They can only do it for so long as you need to entertain them and give them positive results but they have already committed around 35,000 season tickets which is one of the most incredible shows of strength that I have ever seen in football.”

For more insight from Alex McLeish and other leading managers plus exclusive Premier League highlights go to www.yahoo.co.uk/sport

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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