I’M PROUD TO FOL­LOW CLOUGH

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

Dif­fi­cult

“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.

Qual­ity

“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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

CHAL­LENGE: New Not­ting­ham For­est man­ager Alex McLeish

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