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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 19:38 GMT
Time almost up for Alex McLeish
By Colin Moffat

The most surprising aspect of the announcement that Alex McLeish's tenure at Rangers is coming to an end is its timing.

Rangers chairman David Murray likes to grab headlines ahead of Old Firm matches - the 12m signing of Tore Andre Flo a prime example - but the departure of a manager is a novel way of doing that.

That aside, few people will be shocked that McLeish is to be replaced in the summer, with Rangers enduring their poorest domestic season since the mid-eighties.

Conversely, McLeish became the first manager of a Scottish side to reach the last 16 of the Champions League (and, of course, Rangers may still progress further).

Yet while he finds himself contemplating the next stage in his career, McLeish can be proud of his Ibrox record, having won seven trophies since his arrival in December 2001.

That compares favourably with Martin O'Neill's reign at Celtic - and his old rival still enjoys hero worship.

However, McLeish has been a dead man walking for some time.

McLeish's tenure has been a mixture of success and failure
McLeish's tenure has been a mixture of success and failure

Following the worst sequence of results in the club's history, the defending SPL champions were fifth in December and, after something of a revival, are currently fourth.

For Rangers, who hold the world record for domestic championships won, trailing behind Hearts and Hibs in the league race come January is unacceptable.

And to make matters worse, Old Firm rivals Celtic are 18 points clear at the top.

A spate of injuries hindered McLeish this term but the Rangers budget dwarfs all others in Scotland, bar Celtic, and even a depleted squad should be able to outgun the rest.

Hibs and Kilmarnock train on public parks, while Rangers' highly-paid stars drive their luxury cars to the 12m facilities at Murray Park.

The days of big-money signings at Ibrox are over but McLeish was allowed to recruit a number of new faces over the summer.

Jose-Karl Pierre-Fanfan, Julian Rodriguez and Brahim Hemdani arrived from France with big reputations and failed to deliver.

Sotirios Kyrgiakos has been largely calamitous; Ian Murray has been outshone by his former colleagues at Hibs, while Olivier Bernard and Francis Jeffers did nothing to enhance their reputations as Premiership duds.

Jeffers was an unmitigated failure at Ibrox
Jeffers was an unmitigated failure at Ibrox

And Filipo Maniero anyone? The 33-year-old Italian striker was an August transfer deadline-day signing but left in October, without playing a first-team game.

McLeish was a terrific defender with Aberdeen and won 77 caps for Scotland.

He was always fiercely competitive and committed, which cannot be said of his players in recent months.

Leaders like Barry Ferguson and Fernando Ricksen have gone missing as team confidence crumbled.

McLeish cut his managerial teeth at Motherwell and Hibernian, without any top-flight honours to his name.

His appointment was not universally welcomed by the Rangers faithful but he steered Rangers to success in both cup competitions in his first half-season in charge.

McLeish followed that with a fantastic clean-sweep, adding the league title.

The season before last was barren and McLeish was under pressure but he rallied to clinch the League Cup and the all-important championship in 2004-05.

The dramatic final-day nature of both his SPL wins earned McLeish the reputation as a "lucky" manager rather than a good one in certain quarters.

That is a harsh assessment of the man who has steered Rangers into the knockout phase of the Champions League.

He will hope to depart Ibrox with some pride restored - further progress in the Champions League and second place in the league would go some way towards that.

Interview: Rangers chairman David Murray

News conference: Rangers boss Alex McLeish


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