Unpopular Opinion - Alex McLeish - TA specific - Tartan Army Message Board Jump to content

Unpopular Opinion - Alex McLeish


Recommended Posts

So basically, I’m hungover this Monday and I found myself watching highlights of the end of Strachan’s tenure and the start of McLeish’s second spell.

It got me thinking about those times to now with the position we’ve landed in of relative success, that unintentionally, Alex McLeish’s appointment after Strachan left was a good thing for the National Team in the long run.

Before everyone thinks I’m at the windup, cast ourselves back to the end of Strachan. We had just crashed out of WC qualifying despite a decent run of form towards the end of the campaign. Strachan’s squad was aging, and the main criticism of his reign was his loyalty to players who weren’t playing for their clubs and not doing it for the national side either, over more up and coming players. Those players who were towards the end of their international careers mostly disappeared with Strachan leaving, from memory by mutual consent having failed to qualify from 2 campaigns. The squad would fall into a natural transition and whoever took over would have a real job on their hands to get the team back on their feet to immediately compete.

Then the SFA went through what seemed like an oddly protracted recruitment drive for a manager. The whole Michael O’Neill episode where it seemed to be all agreed including him wanting to have those friendly matches in South America, only to stay with NI. Not sure we’ll ever know really what happened there but it was an odd one. Alex McLeish stepped in out of obscurity, to a poor public reaction.

Make no mistake, McLeish was out of his depth with his second spell in charge, some of his tactics and dithery interviews where he made some laughable analysis was hard to watch. The media I think weren’t as hard on him as they might have been but the fan reaction in my opinion was a disgrace. People can vote with their feet and not go to games, which I find to be the most elegant form of showing discontent. The problem I had was that people had a certain opinion of McLeish – he’s finished, he’s a turncoat, he doesn’t have a clue, whatever – there were Scotland die hard fans I spoke to on trips who seemed more interested in having their opinions on McLeish be right than want the team to do well. The team he inherited had to be built from scratch, and some of the players available clearly weren’t up to it, but he also managed to get the first 10 or so caps for a lot of players to establish themselves at that level who are now automatic starters for our squad. Robertson also got to cut his teeth as captain although we can probably agree that was a difficult teething process for a while. There were some calamitous performances and results, but he also somehow managed to navigate the most important games of his tenure which were the (admittedly straightforward) Nations League Group, and practically got us our backdoor entry to Euro 2020 in a sense.

By the end the performances were too bad and the vitriol from the fans was too toxic. The “fan” behaviour in San Marino for his last game must be a particular lowlight of my life following Scotland. He had to go. But had we had a manager who might have got slightly more out of the players we had available, whether O’Neill or someone else, we might have missed the boat on the current set up we have. It’s hard to imagine anyone under any circumstances to have done as well as Clarke has done. Steve Clarke was the right man at the right time, within SFA’s budget, coming off the best season most Killie fans will ever remember having seen, and given his experiences and where he was in his career seemed less likely to jump ship to England if things were going well since he would be unlikely to have an itch to scratch there. We now have a manager and a coaching team who have worked on a system which maximizes our assets, even where we have an overload of quality in the same positions and allows to protect our weaknesses in the squad somewhat as well.

This is all a bit of a butterfly effect theory, but basically with McLeish taking most of the flak and by extension taking some of the negative attention away from players in their first few caps who are now guaranteed to be in the Euros squad, a lot of the same players playing under an early adaptation of our current 5 at the back system, and the timing of McLeish’s exit and Steve Clarke’s ascent with Killie, it’s fair to say that despite that specific period being a really difficult time to support the national team, it’s all worth it now.

Especially when we win the Euros!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, kwhitelaw said:

Was it not also originally his idea of playing Tierney as a left centre back when we were all crying out for him to be moved to right back where Strachan was playing him?

I think this is related to the 5 at the back system we've used mostly in recent years starting with McLeish, which to be fair was a bit of a disaster for us in it's early adaptation as it seemed like we were badly exposed on the break when we lost the ball. This did give us the chance to try KT and Robertson down the same side with the RB poisition being more suited to a wing back like a Ryan Fraser at the time and not a true defender.

If we remember the last handful of Strachan games Tierney was indeed playing on the right, in the absence of a true right back that was up to international standard. I remember we went through Callum Paterson, Liam Palmer and eventually settled for a while with SOD. Even to this day arguably our first choice RB is playing out of position, although Nathan Paterson I do think is a good attacking option as a backup.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/13/2024 at 1:51 PM, kwhitelaw said:

Was it not also originally his idea of playing Tierney as a left centre back when we were all crying out for him to be moved to right back where Strachan was playing him?

Might be my memory playing tricks but I think Tierney first played as a left CB against England, in the 2-2 game. Usually, though, Strachan played him at RB.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/13/2024 at 9:17 AM, Orraloon said:

And he still has a higher win percentage than Steve Clarke.

Apples and oranges. 

Clarke has managed more than double the amount of games that McLeish had. Clarke has also managed us in play offs and at a major tournament and played likes of England, France etc in friendlies. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...