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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 October 2007, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Smith praises successor McLeish
Walter Smith and Alex McLeish
Walter Smith and Alex McLeish brought success to Scotland
Walter Smith admits that even he is staggered by how much Alex McLeish has achieved as manager of Scotland.

McLeish has built on the early success in the Euro 2008 campaign enjoyed before Smith quit to rejoin Rangers.

"You can't speak highly enough of the way that he has handled it since he has taken over. I think he has handled it absolutely magnificently," said Smith.

"The victory in France I think is one of the best victories that our country have had."

That victory put Scotland top of Group B with three games to go as McLeish aims to lead his side to the finals in Austria and Switzerland.

"The opening games are maybe a little bit easier to handle than the other ones," said Smith of his own time in charge.

We are now getting a number of younger players coming through

Rangers manager Walter Smith

"Scotland got off to a good start and then the game against France at Hampden was a big test and we won that one, but then we lost to the Ukraine away.

"So Alex was coming into a situation where he was taking the job in the knowledge that he had to continue a run of decent results and, at international level, that's always difficult.

"As well as the win in France, he has handled every other game he has been in charge for in the right manner because they were a difficult balance to achieve, in terms of having to attack and win matches and not leave yourself too open against international sides of a really good standard.

"He won the first game and he got us up to 18 points and I thought 18 points was a terrific achievement for Scotland to get in that section, let alone anything else.

"Alex managed to achieve that total with four games to go."

Now Ukraine visit Hampden on Saturday knowing that they must win to maintain their own slim hopes of qualification ahead of the Scots, French and Italians.

Rangers players Barry Ferguson, Lee McCulloch and David Weir are likely to add their many years of experience to Scotland's side on the day.


But the 59-year-old Smith is confident that the emerging generation of players are the country's best for years.

"We are now getting a number of younger players coming through," he told, the League Managers Association's website.

"Berti Vogts had a very awkward situation to take over because the Scotland squad lost an awful lot of players because of their age and we didn't really have the players who were ready to fill that at that time.

"Two or three years later, I feel we now have a better level and a lot of the guys that are coming in and playing are playing exceptionally well, not just at international level but at club level as well and I think that is helping everyone.

"I still think that within the game in Scotland that there is a realism that we are not among the bigger countries.

"But I think what we have done more than anything else is bring back a bit of respectability both at international and at club level."

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