COMEBECK KINGS

Mcleish hits back af­ter an­other Scot­tish disas­ter: I’ve never flinched from a chal­lenge ..I won’t start now

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - ARSENAL - BY CRAIG SWAN

UN­DER-FIRE Scot­land boss Alex Mcleish says the storm of crit­i­cism he has faced has made him more de­ter­mined to re­vive the coun­try’s flag­ging for­tunes.

The for­mer As­ton Villa and Birm­ing­ham man­ager has taken se­ri­ous flak fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s con­fi­dence­sap­ping 2-1 de­feat in Is­rael.

It was his fifth loss in seven games since tak­ing charge of Scot­land for a sec­ond time and leaves qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the Na­tions League play-offs hang­ing in the bal­ance.

But the 59-year-old in­sists he’s still the right man for the job. “I’ve never flinched from a chal­lenge and I’m not go­ing to start now. No way,” he said.

“The more crit­i­cism I get, the more de­ter­mined I am to turn it around.

“I am de­ter­mined to see it through and get the team to the level where you guys all like it and the sup­port­ers, es­pe­cially, like it.

“That’s my chal­lenge and I have never flinched from a chal­lenge. When peo­ple put the boot in, I tend to bounce back.”

Mcleish ad­mit­ted the Is­rael de­feat – which saw John Sout­tar red-carded – hurt him and his play­ers (above) and re­minded him of the pain man­age­ment can bring.

“It’s in my DNA. I am a masochist,” he said. “I will prob­a­bly hear about the crit­i­cism com­ing my way.

“If there is good in­for­ma­tion there for me to take, then of course I will take it.”

Mcleish and the Scot­land squad re­turned yes­ter­day to their Ed­in­burgh base to pre­pare for to­mor­row’s friendly against Por­tu­gal. Big Eck, look­ing for a re­sponse now from his play­ers, said:

“We have slipped down the rank­ings over a num­ber of years and we have a lot of claw­ing back to do now.”

Af­ter eight months and seven games of Mcleish’s sec­ond reign, fans are ask­ing if Scot­land have pro­gressed, or even gone back­wards, since Gor­don Stra­chan left. Asked how he thought his reign has gone, Mcleish, who first took charge of the na­tional team in Jan­uary 2007 and started his sec­ond spell just eight months ago, said: “I do like some of the things we are do­ing.

“But we lose to sucker goals. We are try­ing to get rid of that over a pe­riod of time and try­ing to get those gilt-edged shut-outs with­out park­ing the bus ev­ery game.”

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