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  Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Profile: Alex McLeish
Alex McLeish salutes the Rangers fans at Ibrox in December
Alex McLeish has instilled new spirit at Ibrox
BBC Sport Online outlines the career of Rangers manager Alex McLeish.

Alex McLeish took on his biggest challenge yet when he was unveiled as Rangers' 11th manager in December 2001.

McLeish took the reins at Ibrox with a reputation as one of Scottish football's bright young managerial talents and with a brilliant playing career as the backdrop.

He won Scottish championships, lifted the European Cup Winners' Cup and played in three World Cups with Scotland, collecting 77 caps along the way.

But taking over from Dick Advocaat as Rangers manager was an altogether different kind of pressure.

One half of the famous Old Firm, Rangers are a Scottish institution with a huge domestic and worldwide support who demand success on an annual basis.

Added to this was the fact that McLeish was immediately faced with the task of over-turning arch-rivals Celtic's recent supremacy in Scotland under Martin O'Neill's guidance.

But McLeish has been no stranger to challenges during his career as a player and a manager.

Under Alex Ferguson, McLeish and central defensive partner Willie Miller were the rocks on which was built an immovable Dons force that broke the Old Firm stranglehold on domestic honours in the 1980s.

Learning his trade

In 1994 McLeish took over from Tommy McLean as manager of Motherwell after 17 years at Pittodrie.

In his first season at Fir Park, he led the unfashionable Lanarkshire side to a surprise second place in the Scottish Premier League.

But he found it difficult to sustain that success and moved to Hibs in 1998.

While taking over too late to prevent Hibs' relegation, McLeish won the First Division title - and promotion - the following year in another successful first full season.

Dick Advocaat (left) and Alex McLeish
McLeish (right) was Dick Advocaat's first choice
In his third term, McLeish's rebuilt Hibs finished third behind the Old Firm and, for a time, looked like they might even challenge for the title themselves.

It was these achievements that had him being touted as assistant to his mentor, Ferguson, at Manchester United.

That initial success again proved difficult to repeat, Rangers having, ironically, plundered Easter Road of prize possessions Kenny Miller and Russell Latapy.

Ibrox bound

And so to Ibrox and the biggest challenge of McLeish's career.

He was nominated personally by Advocaat as his natural successor in December when the little Dutchman moved upstairs to take on the role of director of football.

Many critics suggested that there would be conflict between the two men as McLeish, at 42 a relative rookie among managers, attempted to stamp his authority on an Ibrox dressing room low on morale.

But the balance struck between the pair appears to have worked so far with Advocaat overseeing the bringing in of new players allowing McLeish to concentrate on the coaching side with the first team.

McLeish ended the Ibrox club's recent trophy drought by collecting the CIS Insurance cup in March, but perhaps more importantly has instilled a spirit in the team that appeared to be missing towards the end of Advocaat's reign.

New spirit

He has already built good relationships with the players and several senior members have expressed their belief that the Ibrox dressing room under McLeish is a happier one.

Despite the high stakes he has shown that he is willing to build for the future and has been unafraid to blood youngsters in big games.

Promising young talent such as Maurice Ross, Bob Malcolm, Peter Lovenkrands and Stephen Hughes have all flourished under the guidance of their new boss.

McLeish has also dispelled any fears that he would be unable to handle the pressure in the goldfish bowl of Glasgow.

His renowned dry wit and media-friendly image have so far refused to buckle under the constant media glare that engulfs every movement at Ibrox.

But his strong character will once more be put to the test on Saturday as he attempts to win his first Scottish Cup as a manager and in the process a cup double for Rangers.

He will also be hoping to prevent Celtic from winning a league and cup double which would further cement the Parkhead club's supremacy under O'Neill.


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