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‘GRATEFUL’ McLEISH AFTER SACK

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SACKED Alex McLeish admitted he was “grateful for the opportunity” to be given a second opportunity of managing Scotland.

The axe fell on the 60-year-old international gaffer today after only 12 games – seven defeats and five wins – and 14 months in charge.

McLeish took charge for a second time in February 2018 when he succeeded his former Scotland and Aberdeen team-mate Gordon Strachan.

However, Big Eck came under increasing pressure after a dreadful start to the Euro 2020 qualifiers when the nation nosedived to a 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan.

That was followed by a 2-0 win over San Marino, ranked the WORST team in the world, but it was not enough to save his job..

Today’s announcement was “agreed collectively in consultation with Alex” at a SFA board meeting at Hampden.

UNDER PRESSURE…Alex McLeish urges on his players.

McLeish, in a statement said: “I leave knowing that I gave my all.

“I am proud that together we finished top of our UEFA Nations League group and qualified for the Euro 2020 play-offs, which gives us a real opportunity to reach a major tournament for the first time in over 20 years.

“I am also pleased to have given many younger players a first taste of international football that will stand them – and the country – in good stead for the future.”

SFA chief executive Ian Maxwell said the much-travelled manager, who has bossed Motherwell, Hibs Rangers, Birmingham City and Aston Villa among others, had “accepted the decision” with “good grace”.

EYES DOWN…Aex McLeish at Press Conference.

Maxwell added that the decision “was not an easy one” and came after an “honest and respectful conversation” between himself and McLeish earlier this week.

McLeish’s coaching staff – Peter Grant, James McFadden and Stevie Woods – have also left their roles.

The SFA have said the search for a successor “will begin immediately”.

The national team resumes their campaign in June against Cyprus and Belgium as they look to end a 22-year wait for a major tournament finals appearance.

“The board believes a change of management is necessary to reinvigorate the European qualifying campaign,” a SFA statement read.

BLUE BOYS…Stuart Armstrong, Johnny Russell and Oli McBurnie after another display.

Former Scotland star Charlie Nicholas, speaking to Sky Sports, claimed the SFA were a shambles and his ex-international team-mate suffered as a consequence.

Th ex-Celtic favourite said: “The public have lost interest in the team; there was no real support for the manager.

“I know it’s a results-based business, but I don’t hold McLeish truly responsible. He has to take some share of the blame, but the fans are bored of how soft the choices are.

“It’s a shambles at the top end, we don’t see a bright future and we don’t give any hope to the young players, there is too much influence from the clubs. We have to get a board to understand what the position of manager is, at the top level they are not the right men for the job.

“It’s time for a change, we need younger coaches to adapt to younger minds. In house, we have Malkay Mackay, it’s going to be slow and painful and it won’t solve the issue, we need something to build on and the manager gets blamed every time.

OUT…Peter Grant who left with McLeish.

“There’s no forward thinking with these appointments.

“We don’t get anywhere in terms of success, we have to have a forward plan and say this is the way we can help and encourage.

“We have to start with a standard to take the nation forward, we have to coach our young players about how to operate with the ball rather than just about hard work and effort. Let’s embrace younger players and coaches.”

Another former Scotland international striker, Steven Thompson, speaking to BBC Scotland, insisted the SFA must be held responsible for the ill-fated reign of McLeish which ended after just 12 games.

OUT…James McFadden was also sacked.

He said: “There has to be accountability from the SFA. He wasn’t my first or second-choice manager, but the same people who offered the job have it taken it away from him.

“Maybe it’s time they were on two-year contracts and we’ll see how their performance is.”

Thompson added: “The knives were out for him after that Kazakhstan result, which was a disgraceful performance.

“But he’s been dealt a difficult hand in terms of the friendlies he had initially.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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