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Alexander "Alex" McLeish (born 21 January 1959) nicknamed "Big Eck", is a Scottish former professional footballer who played as a central defender. Born in Barrheadmarker, Renfrewshire, he played for Aberdeen during their 1980s glory years, making nearly 500 League appearances for the club, and won 77 cap for Scotland.

He started his managerial career with spells at Motherwell and Hibernian, before guiding Rangers to two championships and five cup wins in five years. McLeish spent ten months as manager of the Scotland national team which narrowly failed to qualify for the finals of the 2008 UEFA European championship. He then resigned this post in November 2007 to become manager of Birmingham City, who were in the English Premier League at the time. Birmingham were relegated at the end of the 2007–08 season, but McLeish guided the club to promotion back to the Premier League in the following season.

In recognition of his distinguished service to Scottish sport, in 2008 McLeish was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Aberdeen.

Playing career

Aberdeen years

His playing career saw him join Aberdeen in 1976 where he formed a formidable defensive partnership with Willie Miller. He enjoyed great success at Aberdeen under the management of Alex Ferguson including a European Cup Winners' Cup win over Real Madrid. When Ferguson left to go to Manchester United, he tried to get McLeish to sign, but it did not work out; he also had talks with Tottenham Hotspur. He also won the Scottish player of the year in 1990. He was captain of Aberdeen after the retirement of Willie Miller.

Even after he had won his first Scotland cap, Alex McLeish's father asked then Aberdeen boss Alex Ferguson to persuade him to continue training as an accountant.

Winners medals as Aberdeen player

International career

He also played in three World Cups with Scotland, in 1982, 1986 and 1990. He is a member of both the Scottish Football Hall of Famemarker and the Scotland national football team roll of honour. McLeish is Scotland's third most capped player, having gained 77 international caps between 1980 and 1993.

Management career


After his successful playing career he quickly went into football management with Motherwell in 1994, one year before he retired as a player. His first season at Motherwell saw him take the Lanarkshire club to second in the Premier League behind Walter Smith's Rangers. However, he failed to build on this success and the next two season were spent in relegation battles. He resigned as manager to take over at Hibernian in 1998.


McLeish took over a struggling Hibernian side, which was relegated from the Scottish Premier Division in 1998 despite a slight upturn in fortunes under McLeish. He then guided the Edinburghmarker team back to the Scottish Premier League at the first attempt by winning the First Division championship.

Hibernian consolidated in their first season back in the top division, finishing mid-table and reaching the Scottish Cup semi-final. In the 2000–01 season, Hibs started very strongly. Eventually they had to settle for third place and a Scottish Cup final appearance. This performance attracted the attention of bigger clubs, including West Ham United and Rangers.

McLeish attracted top players such as Russell Latapy and former French international Franck Sauzée to Hibs. He also helped develop young striker Kenny Miller, who would later go on to play for Rangers,Wolves, Celtic, Derby County and Scotland.

During this period McLeish worked towards and was awarded a UEFA Pro Licence.


His work at Hibs was noticed, and he was linked with several moves to England, before he was appointed as Rangers manager in December 2001 after outgoing Rangers manager Dick Advocaat recommended McLeish to chairman David Murray.

McLeish was an instant success at Rangers, winning both the Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup in his first season, but the big prize of the league title was essentially lost before his arrival. His second season saw him go one better when he won the domestic treble, with the help of top players such as Ronald de Boer and Barry Ferguson.

Rangers' worsening financial state saw many of his top players leave in the summer of 2003. Celtic won the league comfortably in season 2003–04, and Rangers failed to win any trophies. McLeish was consequently put under pressure from fans after his poor signings and a record run of seven consecutive derby losses to Celtic.

The high profile Bosman signings of Jean-Alain Boumsong and Dado Pršo in the close season of 2004–05 gave Rangers renewed hope of regaining the title from Celtic's grasp. McLeish's team won the 2005 league title on a dramatic last day, an outcome that had looked highly unlikely after Rangers fell five points behind leaders Celtic with just four games remaining.

After this unexpected success, McLeish and his Rangers team headed into the 2005–06 SPL campaign as favourites to retain the championship. McLeish made a number of signings, despite having little money to spend. These included Julien Rodriguez and Ian Murray. After a reasonable start to the season, including a win over Celtic, Rangers suffered a series of poor results between September and November. This period included a club record of 10 games without a win. However the tenth match of this run, a 1–1 draw with Inter Milan in the Champions League, took Rangers into the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time.

Despite the poor domestic form, McLeish guided Rangers to the last 16 of the Champions League, where they were defeated on the away goals rule by Villarreal. They became the first Scottish team to progress this far in the European Cup since 1993, and the first Scottish team to progress through a European group stage. In December, chairman David Murray publicly announced his support for McLeish. Rangers then went on a good run of results in December and January.

This run of good results came to a sudden halt when they were defeated 3–0 by Hibernian in the Scottish Cup, prompting protests outside Ibrox against both McLeish and David Murray. On 9 February 2006, it was announced by chairman David Murray that McLeish would be standing down as manager at the end of that season.

It was later announced that he would be succeeded by former Olympique Lyonnais manager Paul Le Guen. Rangers beat Hearts 2–0 at Ibrox Stadiummarker, in his final match as manager.


McLeish said after leaving Rangers that he would not manage another Scottish club, because he felt that he had achieved everything in the Scottish game. He was linked in the media with a number of managerial positions in England while he worked as a television pundit for the BBC and Setanta Sports.

McLeish took charge of the Scotland national side on 29 January 2007. His assistants in the job were Roy Aitken and Andy Watson.McLeish's first game in charge of the national team was a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifying match, a 2–1 victory against Georgia on 24 March 2007 at Hampden Parkmarker. His second game was an away fixture against Italy on 28 March 2007 which ended in a 2–0 defeat.

McLeish's Scotland side then went on to defeat the Faroe Islands away in June, Lithuania at home in September before recording a historic victory in Paris four days later by defeating France 1–0 in the Parc des Princesmarker. James McFadden's 64th-minute strike from 30 yards was enough to earn Scotland the win and returned them to the top of Group B with three games to play. This result has been hailed as one of the Scotland national team's greatest victories. Scotland's next success was at home to Ukraine, winning 3–1 at Hampden on 13 October. McLeish suffered his second defeat as manager, away in Georgia on 17 October. This result left him facing a decider against the World Champions, Italy. Scotland lost the game, McLeish's last, and Italy qualified for the finals. He is statistically the best Scotland manager ever with a win percentage of 70%.

Birmingham City

Premier League Birmingham City's approach to the SFA for permission to speak to McLeish about their managerial vacancy was refused,but on his return on 27 November 2007 from attending the draw for 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification in South Africa, he resigned his post as manager of Scotlandand was announced as Birmingham's new manager the following day. His assistants with Scotland, Roy Aitken and Andy Watson, were to accompany him. McLeish said he wanted to return to working with players on a daily basis and had "always harboured a desire" to manage in the Premier League.

enjoyed a positive managerial debut with Birmingham, winning 3–2 away to Tottenham Hotspur. In the January 2008 transfer window, McLeish strengthened Birmingham's squad, buying David Murphy and James McFadden and signing Argentina under-20 international Mauro Zárate on loan, while generating funds by allowing fringe players to leave. He was unable to save Birmingham from relegation, despite the team recording an impressive 4–1 victory over Blackburn Roversmarker on the last day of the season.

Since his arrival, McLeish has improved the club's backroom staff and training procedures, appointed David Watson as goalkeeping coach, and overhauled the scouting setup, bringing in Paul Montgomery – the scout who recommended a relatively unknown Didier Drogba to West Ham United – to oversee player recruitment.

On 3 May 2009, McLeish secured Birmingham's return to the top flight of English football at the first attempt with a 2-1 away victory over Reading.

Managerial honours

Club honours

Individual awards



Team Nat From To Record
G W D L Win %
Motherwell 13 July 1994 10 February 1998 156 48 45 63
Hibernian 11 February 1998 11 December 2001 164 77 42 45
Rangers 13 December 2001 8 May 2006 235 155 44 36
Scotland 29 January 2007 27 November 2007 10 7 0 3 70.00
Birmingham City 28 November 2007 Present 76 30 23 23
Total 639 316 175 169


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