Big Eck wants back – it’s time to forgive and forget

Let’s cast our mind back to that September night in 2007 in the French capital of Paris. The setting for our national team’s greatest victory.

Scotland – starved of a place at a major finals and heavily unfancied against the might of France – charged the field of the Parc des Princes. They fought like true Scotsmen that night, and thanks to a James McFadden goal that I’m sure needs no explanation, they beat the French in their own backyard.

Ask any Tartan Army foot-soldier about that famous win and watch as they beam with pride recounting the events of a most memorable evening in the City of Love.

And now, Alex McLeish – the man who led us into battle that wonderful night – has stated his desire to return to the national team hot seat.

At a meeting last week, the SFA decided that after a second successive failed qualifying campaign, it was time to part company with manager Gordon Strachan. That news was met with a largely positive reaction across the country.

What may not be received quite as well is the news that Alex McLeish has issued a ‘come and get me’ plea to the SFA.

There are many factions of the Tartan Army who have found it extremely difficult to forgive McLeish for walking away from the National Team to join Birmingham City back in 2007, and – of course – that is understandable.

Let’s be honest, we football fans can be a fickle bunch – and when a player or manager decides to move on from our team – we soon forget all the good things they have done for us.

A friend of mine, Tartan Army member Ross Clark, is most definitely one of said supporters. He likened what McLeish done ten years ago to “your partner leaving you for a richer and better-looking offer, only to come and beg for you back after getting dumped and being single for a year.”

But it’s time we cut Big Eck some slack, take off the tartan-tinted specs and look at the bigger picture.

At the time he was 48-years-old, he’d just taken Scotland to within a heart-breaking defeat to Italy of qualifying for Euro 2008. He was a manager in his prime and dangling in front of him was the opportunity to manage a team in the English Premier League, arguably the pinnacle for gaffers all over the world.

Even the most patriotic Scotsman must admit that is a difficult prospect to turn down.

So, fast forward ten years to now. Yes, he may have been out of a job for over a year after parting company with Egyptian side Zamalek last May – but McLeish still represents a more than viable option to fill the Scotland vacancy.

The former Rangers boss himself said that when he first took up the reins at Hampden, he felt he was a little too young for international management. Now at 58, he’s the perfect age – and we already know he can do it.

He will certainly have the respect of the players and in his year away from management has being lending his hand at Scottish football punditry.

That means he has a good grip on our game, and the chances of Scottish players who have been playing regular first team football in our top tier may actually get the chance  in the national team that their performances deserve – a concept that seemed alien to our previous boss.

To those still holding a grudge, I say this – it’s time to forgive and forget.

The man who led us in our finest hour wants to return and complete unfinished business – but can he provide us with some more memorable moments?

 

Craig Gamble

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