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Rangers spoke to me but I didn't want to go back: McLeish

By Ronnie Esplin

Former Rangers boss Alex McLeish was not close to returning to Ibrox and had reservations about the prospect when approached by the club. McLeish was manager of the Govan club between 2001 and 2006, winning the domestic treble in 2003, among other honours.

He was invited by the Gers board to discuss the position vacated by Mark Warburton in February, with the club eventually opting for Portuguese coach Pedro Caixinha.

Asked how close he was to becoming the Light Blues boss for a second time - ahead of the Old Firm Scottish Cup semi-final clash at Hampden Park on Sunday - he said: "I wasn't close. I had doubts about it.

"I did speak to them and I said that if they were to come back and offer me it, I would like to speak further. It was a very casual chat. It wasn't what I would call an interview, it was meeting old friends again and seeing where they were going with the club.

"They say don't go back, and that was in my mind, but they asked to speak to me and it was worth listening to what they had to say.

"But I believe Pedro Caixinha was probably uppermost in their minds even at that time.

"I was never 100 per cent, 'yes, I am going back to Rangers'.

"I wouldn't have just walked straight back in without some further talks.

"It was totally different to when I first went. It just wasn't for me at this time of my career.

"I felt that there is a lot that goes with it as well, in terms of the other side of the actual football and training.

"There is a lot of politics and I don't know if I needed that at this stage of my life."

Asked if he had any advice for Caixinha ahead of his first Old Firm game, the former Scotland boss said: "It is so difficult to prepare anybody for these games. Just don't get beat.

"Just win, as (former Rangers boss) Walter Smith always used to say. Just win.

"Of course it is the cup. Someone has to win. I would say he has to do everything in his power to win it."

McLeish recalled his first game as Rangers boss against Celtic after he had left Hibernian in December 2001 to take over at Ibrox from Dutch coach Dick Advocaat.

The following February, a thunderous Bert Konterman strike in extra-time gave the Light Blues a 2-1 Scottish League Cup semi-final victory over their old rivals at Hampden Park.

McLeish said: "You get the demons in your head and think, 'what if I never beat Celtic? What if I never win a cup?'

"So you get rid of the negatives and say, 'what if I do, what if we can win this one?'

"And it certainly resurrected our season and it cemented a good relationship right at the beginning with myself and the Rangers fans because there was a question mark when I got the job.

"I was the Hibs manager and I thought they (Rangers) were going to go down the foreign coach route every time they made a change so some people were surprised.

"I was determined to make sure that I could make a stamp on Rangers Football Club's history and kept the positive things in my head rather than looking at the negative.

"I am sure Pedro Caixinha will be looking to get off to a flier."

McLeish concedes that Caixinha, however, will have his work cut out stopping Ulsterman Brendan Rodgers' treble-chasing Celtic who are unbeaten domestically this season.

He said: "Celtic are in the driving seat in terms of form and confidence and they must be going into this game as favourites.

"It has got to be one of the best performances of Rangers' season if they are to get to the final.

"Pedro will be trying to make his big impact on this game.

"This will be the one where everybody will be looking at how he copes and how he does."

Belfast Telegraph


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