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By ESPN Staff
Jan 29, 2007

Scotland unveil McLeish as Smith successor

Alex McLeish was named as the man to take Scotland forward on Monday - and vowed he would never walk out on the national team.

The 48-year-old's appointment was confirmed at Hampden Park, where he was unveiled as Walter Smith's successor.

Smith was criticised for abandoning Scotland midway through their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign in favour of a return to Rangers, having guided the Scots to the summit of a qualifying group which also includes last year's two World Cup finalists, Italy and France.

McLeish assumes responsibility for the remainder of the European campaign, as well as the task of leading Scotland to the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa - on a longer contract than Smith had.

In the wake of Smith's departure, McLeish confessed that he saw his future in club management - sparking fears he could use the national team as a stepping stone to a top job in the Premiership.

However, McLeish has assured the Tartan Army he is in the job for the long haul.

'I've signed a contract of commitment and I plan to see that commitment all the way through,' he said.

'I've been in the Scottish game for 30 years, playing at a pretty decent level and I've had success in management as well over the last 10 or 12 years.

'People who know me know that, when I go into something, I always give it 100% and give it my very best shot.

'I'll try to keep improving the good work Walter Smith has done.'

He added: 'People said to me, 'I thought you fancied club football? I thought you were going to wait for that?'.

'But when the call came: 'Do you want to be manager of Scotland?' ... I don't want to swear, but it's a hard one to resist.

'I talked it over with my family and friends and decided it was a smashing move for me and an honour.'

McLeish has been unemployed since parting company with Rangers at the end of last season and insists the transition from club manager to international boss will be a smooth one.

He will be deprived of the daily involvement with players he enjoyed as manager of Motherwell, Hibernian and Rangers.

But, with crucial qualifiers against Georgia and Italy in March, he will have enough to occupy his time.

McLeish said: 'I've been out of work for about eight months now, I've seen a bit of the world.

'Being back in employment again, it doesn't matter if I'm on the training field every day.

'I know there will be plenty to do - watching videos, studying tapes, going to see games, watching all the teams in the Scottish Premier League, looking at the Scots down south (in England).

'And I'm not too bad at paperwork as well.'

McLeish has installed trusty sidekick Andy Watson and former Scotland captain Roy Aitken as his coaches, but will also be seeking guidance from predecessor Smith.

Mentor and friend Sir Alex Ferguson could also receive a call, after urging McLeish to go for the job he occupied himself for a short period during the 1986 World Cup.

McLeish said: 'It's important, when you come into a job, that you don't think 'Well, I'm going to do it my way and my way only. I won't rely on anybody else'.

'I've got to lean on the experience of Walter Smith, of other people that I admire in the game.

'If I believe somebody can help the cause then, of course, I will ask for advice.'

McLeish's first engagement with the national team will be a three-day squad gathering at the Turnberry Hotel, Ayrshire on February 4.

His competitive debut will be the following month, when Georgia visit Hampden on March 24, before facing World Cup winners Italy in Bari four days later.

The Faroe Islands, Lithuania, France and Ukraine are the other teams McLeish must overcome if he is to lead Scotland to their first major tournament in a decade.

He added: 'We would love as smooth a transition as possible for the national team and to continue the good work that Walter Smith has done.

'Walter has raised the hopes of the nation fantastically well and we hope to continue that trend.

'It's a marvellous opportunity and it is a massive challenge.

'We have to make sure that we keep the Tartan Army happy but also keep our feet on the ground.

'We need humility and we have to be respectful of our opponents and not dismiss anybody in the group. It's a very difficult group.

'We had a bonus result against France, with a marvellous performance, and it's our intention to keep the spirit, the team ethic, that Walter created. It's very important.

'We have some great players - some great individual players - but I think it was very much the team ethic that was the key for us before I became the national coach.'