I’M PROUD TO FOLLOW CLOUGH
ALEX McLeish admits a ‘catalogue of horrors’ at Aston Villa left him battered and bruised – but claims the batteries are now fully recharged to power Nottingham Forest’s Premier League push.
Despite sitting a point outside the play-offs after an impressive 4-2 win over Leeds on Boxing Day, the AlHasawi family triggered Sean O’Driscoll and installed McLeish in a whirlwind 24 hours.
It’s McLeish’s first job since he was booted out of Villa Park after a relegation-threatened season where he was a constant target of the boo boys, having just taken Birmingham down and resigned via email.
But while life in the Championship didn’t appeal with the Blues two years ago, McLeish has had success in England’s second tier before, guiding Birmingham to second in 2009 before securing the League Cup 18 months later.
And having fully recovered from the scars that he endured as the Holte End’s public enemy No.1, McLeish says he is now ready to finish the job O’Driscoll started.
And he doesn’t expect to be among the unemployed if the AlHasawis don’t get their Premier League wish this summer.
“Last season was a draining one,” said the 53-year-old former Rangers and Scotland boss. “I took a bit of a kicking at times. You look at Villa at the moment and you see how difficult it is, it’s not just an overnight job.
“There were job opportunities at the start of the season but I took the decision to ignore them. There was no way I was going to come straight back into it.
“It was a tough project in just one season and without doubt I feel I would have been able to turn it round.
“It was a difficult job at Villa but one that I met head on and it was great to get them over the line at the end of the catalogue of horrors we had there.
“I don’t regret anything and now I’m looking to concentrate on Forest.
“It’s always nice to get a job, normally if you’re out of work then you’re waiting until someone in a bit of difficulty comes along, but that’s not the case with this particular job and it looks a wonderful challenge for me.
“I’ve not been told it has to be this season (for the Premiership).What we want to see is Forest mounting a very serious challenge for promotion.”
McLeish is not the first former international manager to try and end Forest’s top-flight exile, now 13 years and counting – Steve McClaren lasted just 112 days in charge at the start of last season.
Indeed, McLeish is Forest’s seventh manager since Colin Calderwood was sacked in 2008 and the 19th appointment since Brian Clough’s 18year tenure came to an end in 1993.
McLeish, however, believes he has all the right ingredients to step out of Clough’s long shadow at the City Ground.
He added: “It’s an honour to be at the club and I feel an immense pride. The heritage at this club is known to everybody, what they’ve done in their great history, and it would be fantastic for the club to get another crack at the Premier League.
“In the meantime the mindset for us is to maintain a feel-good factor and confidence and get these players expressing themselves like they did against Leeds.
“I think there’s a lot of quality here and I’ve told them to show me they’re willing to die for the jersey and to go further on – and then they’ll be in the team.
“It’s a team who like to pass the ball and play football and it’s a team who can play with great effect and maximise resources – there’s a good mix and it’s about harnessing that strong mentality to keep winning every week.”
CHALLENGE: New Nottingham Forest manager Alex McLeish