AS a self-confessed admirer of Alex McLeish, both as a player and an individual, I am saddened but not surprised that he has had to leave his job as Scotland’s national team manager. It’s all for the best for him and for the Scotland squad, and I sincerely wish Big Eck well in the future.

His achievements as a Scotland player mean that he deserves our fullest respect – his record of being capped 77 times to become Scotland’s fourth most decorated internationalist, and representing his country at three World Cups, makes him a playing legend who will never be forgotten for his feats on the pitch.

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Sadly, he will now be unfairly remembered most for the manner of his going. The departure of McLeish having been sounded weeks ago on the front page of the Daily Record, it was only a matter of time before the big man went from Hampden.

All sorts of unseemly rumours had surrounded his health and well-being, but the simple known and undeniable facts of his departure are that the recent results and performances were poor and that he had clearly lost the dressing room and the Tartan Army – calamities which no Scotland manager can survive.

When he was appointed, I had strongly hoped that his return would result in an upsurge in Scotland’s fortunes, but from the start there were problems – not least the way in which he left the job the first time around.

His move to Birmingham City in the wake of Scotland’s exit from the European Championships of 2008 was seen as a betrayal by the Tartan Army and many have never really forgiven him, despite the achievement of getting Scotland into the Nations League play-offs for the 2020 tournament.

I recall that Gordon Smith, the then chief executive of the SFA, confirmed that McLeish was offered an improved deal to stay on with Scotland, yet he walked away.

The way that McLeish was recruited absolutely stank. The SFA rushed to appoint Michael O’Neill of Northern Ireland before even checking if he was willing or able to take the job, which he wasn’t, and McLeish was not even on the shortlist before his pal, SFA President Alan McRae, announced that Big Eck was getting the job – and that happened before the new chief executive Ian Maxwell was in the door. How very suspicious, how very amateurish.

There were other matters which were never going to endear McLeish to a sizeable section of the Scottish support, namely his involvement with the EBT tax issues at Rangers when he was manager at Ibrox.

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He also lacked that necessary quality in any leader – luck. Injuries to key players hit his selections hard, for example the left-back situation in which McLeish went from having two of the best players in the UK in that position to having to play a stand-in for the match in Kazakhstan.

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Here is one simple but staggering fact about the time McLeish had in charge of Scotland second time around: not a single player, not one, played in all 12 matches for which he picked the team.

He used 47 players in all, and only two – Scott McKenna and Callum McGregor – made it into double figures. Admittedly many of his teams were experimental, but long before San Marino he should have had six or seven regulars on each team sheet from the start. Players such as Scott McKenna, Callum McGregor, James Forrest, John McGinn, Graeme Shinnie, Charlie Mulgrew, Andrew Robertson, Keiran Tierney (when fit) and Leigh Griffiths should have been the basis of the team, just as they will have to be under whoever the new manager is.

He also saw Scotland captain Scott Brown – before he even arrived, and for the second time – and Allan McGregor give up international football and lost star striker Leigh Griffith for an extended period.

It is players who make managers successful or unsuccessful. It has to be remembered that during his first spell as manager, he recorded the highest win percentage of any Scotland manager, with seven victories from his 10 matches at the helm.

He also led Scotland to a memorable 1-0 win over France in Paris in 2007, which featured James McFadden’s fabulous goal.

This time around, however, McLeish had lesser players and was clearly unable to pick a settled selection to play good attacking football. He also failed to motivate them – in his departing statement he said: “I would like to thank those players who showed a passion for wearing the dark blue.” That suggests there were players didn’t show that passion, and that’s not just the manager’s fault.

Now the SFA must get the appointment of the next manager right. If they don’t then they should be judged on results, too.

It never ceases to amaze me that the SFA has no independent checks and balances on its operations. No club official – only a member club can do so – dares to call them out.

I remind you that no executive or committee member has ever fallen on their sword for the failure of Scotland to qualify for any major tournament since 1998. Perhaps it is time for someone other than the manager to take the blame.