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Aston Villa’s Alex McLeish, a look at his managerial career

29 July 2011 by

Alex McLeish has been in football management for 17 years so he’s no stranger to a challenge. Having started at Motherwell he pulled off a surprise by guiding them to second in the SPL behind Rangers in 1994. Having over achieved that season the next two seasons Big Eck faced two scrappy relegation battles. Having seen his Motherwell side make very little progress he resigned in 1998 and became manager of Hibernian. A surprising move some might say as they too were struggling in the league and were relegated.

No worries for McLeish as he guided the Edinburgh club straight back to the SPL at the first attempt winning the First Division. Having struggled in the SPL before McLeish’s arrival not much was expected of Hibs however they took the critiscism on the chin and used it to their advantage. They consolidated their position and finished mid table whilst also reaching the Scottish Cup semi-final; losing to Hearts 4-0. Hibs only got better under McLeish especially in the 2000-01 season when they made an extremely strong start, but eventually settled for third. In the same season they also made a Scottish Cup final appearance where they were beaten 3-0 by Celtic. McLeish’s work was not overlooked and Rangers jumped at the chance to make him their new manager in 2001.

Outgoing manager at the time Dick Advoocat recommended McLeish to the board of directors. McLeish could only build on his success and he did……instantly. Rangers won the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup. His first season of success was overshadowed by his second Gers season where he won the domestic treble. At this point McLeish was viewed as one of the hottest managers in the game. Success doesn’t last forever and Rangers financial state cost McLeish dear in 2003. Many of his prize assets were sold and subsequently Celtic won the league comfortably. Also, Rangers failed to pick up a single trophy that season.

Big Eck came under increasing pressure from fans and a seven game consecutive loss record to Celtic seemed to rile fans. In the 2004-05 season McLeish realsied new faces were essential and high profile signings Jean-Alain Boumsong and Dado Prso gave fans renewed hope. The title seemed unlikely after the Gers fell seven points behind Celtic, however McLeish turned it around once again and won the domestic title on a dramatic last day. After another up and down season McLeish stepped down from the managerial position at Ibrox in 2006.

He was succeeded by Paul Le Guen the former Olympic Lyonnais manager. After stepping down from the managerial position at Rangers McLeish openly announced that he would not manage another Scottish club after he felt he had achieved all he wanted to in the Scottish game. Having been linked with various jobs in England McLeish eventually made his decision……he would manage the Scottish national team.

A brief spell as Scotland’s manager was ahead for McLeish who was only given eight games before resigned. While still in the position of Scotland’s manager Birmingham City approached the SFA to seek permission to speak to McLeish about their job. They were refused permission. On his return from the World Cup 2010 qualification draw McLeish decided to resign following the Birmingham approach. The Blues made their move quick and McLeish was announced as the club’s new manager the following day.

In his first season in charge McLeish made decent signings including Marimo Zarate and James McFadden but it wasn’t enough to stop the club from relegation. The 2008-09 season saw Birmingham regain their top flight status at the first attempt after beating Reading 2-1 on the final day. By January 2010 McLeish had welded a team together that seemed unstoppable after they went on a 12 game consecutive unbeaten run. He led Birmingham to their record 9th highest finish.

Having had so much success in the previous season McLeish signed a new deal at St Andrews and the board weren’t regretting their decision as he led the team to Wembley in the Carling Cup final. They were going to play Arsenal who were desperate for a trophy and a 93rd minute winner from loanee Obefemi Martins won it for McLeish after the game was at 1-1. Their success in the Carling Cup only hindered Birmingham as they went on a torrid run after the victory. They were dragged into the relegation battle and McLeish couldn’t save the Blues on the final day at White Hart Lane where they lost 2-1. Fans openly came out and backed McLeish to send them straight back up but McLeish had other ideas.

He quit the club on 12th June 2011 by email. Five days later McLeish made the bold move of jumping ship to Aston Villa much to the annoyance of both Birmingham and Aston Villa fans. Villa fans protested outside their Bodymoor Heath training ground with anti-McLeish chants and graffiti. Currently in Hong Kong McLeish has guided his new side to the Asia Cup final where they will play Chelsea on Saturday. Can McLeish take Villa back into the good times?

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5 Comments »

  • Fatkevs

    Can McLeish take Villa back into the good times?
    Not a chance, horrible appointment
    The owner will see to that cashing in each year & making money on loans to the club

  • Salty (author)

    I’m not too sure I’m not a Villa fan and I was surprised at the appointment but I think if he wins the Asia cup and makes a good start I think he will be ok. He has to do better than Houiller but I think it will be a struggle to win the fan’s over.

  • Tommy

    McLeish’s biggest asset is his media friendliness. Nothing negative sticks and only his successes are ever mentioned in articles like this.

    When he took over at Motherwell, we had a great side and finished 3rd in the league the season before he arrived. Finishing second wasn’t the achivement it’s painted as, Celtic were in complete disarray at the time and Rangers were struggling at the end of their 9 in a row era. He broke our budget, pay structure and youth system in the process and left a successful, financially healthy club broke and at the bottom of the league. He jumped at the first offer that came along (as he’s done several times).

    Sure he won the 1st division with Hibs but with a budget many times greater than every other club in that division and a squad of over 50 players at one point. He also left them broke and at the bottom of the league when he high tailed to Rangers.

    At Rangers, he presided over the worst run of results in their entire HISTORY. 11 Matches without a win. That last day league win mentioned actually occurred as a result of Motherwell’s Scott McDonald scoring two goals in the last 5 minutes against Celtic to beat them 2-1 and allow Rangers to win the league.

    As Scotland Manager, he took over Walter Smith’s reasonably successful side mid-campaign and did OK until he changed the team and tactics in an away match in Georgia where we were utterly hopeless against a team with 3 players under 18 in it.

    He ditched Scotland without a backwards glance after 8 Games to join Birmingham City who he managed to get relegated twice (any other managers allowed to keep their jobs in those circumstances?) and built teams that are the lowest scorers in the division.

    As soon as the chance arises he abandons them having dumped them in the Championship and joins their biggest rivals. He’s already getting his his excuses in early having been quoted as saying he can’t compete in the transfer market with the “big” clubs. That must have come as a complete shock to him?

    His MO at club level is to keep signing players and hope something happens. You won’t see much youth development, that’s for sure, just overpaid, mediocre foreigners. Every club he’s managed has been left poorer and in poorer shape after he’s finished but the media will make sure he ends up at Chelsea or Man U (who he’ll dump to take over at Man City because they have more money).

    Yeah, great manager.

  • Billy WalkersShirt

    To Tommy many thanks from all Villa fans, you my friend have just confirmed all our fears and suspicions.
    Good Health to you Sir!

  • Bluenosejohn

    He was a strange mixture for Birmingham. The Carling Cup run that saw victory over Arsenal was the highlight of my years supporting the club and was a win on merit yet before the year was out I like most other Blues fans was delighted he jumped ship to our dear neighbours and they were giving us compensation for a bloke who should have been sacked. We got relegated twice with him; the first time he took over from Steve Bruce before Christmas and despite having a decent defence we went down due to lack of goals. He got on loan Mauro Zarate who would have got the goals if he had not been left on the bench more than the pitch. Zarate has since then been playing in Serie A which sums up McLeish’s judgement of a striker.

    The second time was the season of the Cup win where we actually over achieved in that the equivalent of 38 draws which seemed to be the aim was passed with a point to spare. Shame that the 17th club got 40 points…..

    He won promotion at the first time of asking following the initial relegation; it was second place with 83 points with a strong squad for the division- the sort of squad one Chris Hughton got 102 points with. Only 37 goals conceded but goalkeeper Maik Taylor was outstanding all season and helped make up for the weakness which was; well what else; 54 goals in 46 games which was less than relegated Norwich.

    The season we finished ninth sums up his strengths and weaknesses. One up front at home to Bolton, losing and using Gary Megson the then Bolton manager as a supporter of his tactics (!!!). The catalyst for a long unbeaten run playing good controlled counter attacking foootball was the introduction of Christian Benitez in the attack; quick, good eye for a pass, skilful in everything except ironically finishing. Cameron Jermone got into double figures largely due to him. Benitez had 21 starts only 3 goals yet Blues got 40 points from those games. The decision not to sign Benitez at the end of that season perhaps sums up the mind set of McLeish certainly at Birmingham.

    It was noticeable he got an easier ride from our friends at the BBC; we never got any credit for anything under Steve Bruce but similar performances were either given due credit or were not criticised like they had been under the previous manager.

    The Villa fans knew what they were in for hence their protests. The majority are against him because of the football on the pitch yet I have recently heard Graham Taylor still claiming it is because he used to manage Blues. The media and press as a whole are biased and blinkered; Joe Hart was being discussed as possibly the world number one on Sky on Sunday yet this is the media who as a whole failed to realise he was England’s number one two years ago in South Africa because he had been on loan to the wrong club ( the PFA excepted as they had included him in the Premier League team of the season which says all you need to know about Capello and the Media ).

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