Sir Kenny Dalglish: I’ll not back Alex McLeish to the hilt – but right now we all have to get behind him and his players

Alex McLeish is on the spot over the next 10 days as he tries to make the Nations League campaign a success (SNS Group)

THE appointment of Alex McLeish as Scotland manager didn’t receive universal approval.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, be it positive or negative.

My own view is quite simple.

The big man has been given the chance by the SFA to lead our country to the Euro 2020 Finals, so we should all unite behind him.

That was my view almost a year ago, and it remains the same now.

Yes, during Alex’s tenure, results haven’t been great.

But the most important thing is that he faces two competitive games in the next 10 days that can see us taking a considerable leap towards a major tournament.

So surely, he and the players deserve positivity and backing?

Honestly, please tell me what there is to be gained by being negative and downbeat?

You can’t find an answer? No, me neither.

When Alex announced his squad last week, he spoke of being up for the challenge and thriving on bouncing back from adversity.

He spoke truthfully.

What he would also rather do without in the days leading up to the games against Albania and Israel are questions about the players who have chosen not to be a part of the squad.

He doesn’t need that to be monopolising the agenda.

For various reasons, Matt Ritchie, Tom Cairney and Robert Snodgrass have all asked not be chosen.

James McArthur also recently announced his retirement from international football to concentrate on his club career at Crystal Palace.

And last month, we had the saga of Leigh Griffiths and his decision to withdraw from the national squad.

Personally, I don’t get why you should be allowed to pick and choose when you play for your country.

It leaves me feeling cold.

Would any player asked to be left out if we were heading to the Euro Finals right now?

But it seems to be the modern way now, and it is happening all over the world.

Germany have also had issues recently with players withdrawing.

However, the Scottish lads run the risk of being left out for good.

If the players in the squad do the business, then there could be no way back for those who have opted out.

I actually don’t like talking about the guys who are NOT involved.

At this stage, they are irrelevant.

It’s about the guys who will be there for the next 10 days, trying to help their country achieve something of importance.

On that point, I’m delighted to see Steven Fletcher back in the fold.

He is an experienced campaigner and knows his way to goal.

He has clearly shown enthusiasm and a willingness to be part of Alex’s plans, and that is heartening.

I would hand him the No.9 jersey for the game against Albania on Saturday night.

With the experienced figure of Steven Naismith unavailable due to injury, Fletcher is a natural to take over.

Also, with the way Celtic have clicked into gear in recent weeks, there must be a temptation for Alex to play Kieran Tierney, James Forrest, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie from the start.

For me, that has to be a serious shout.

Tierney, obviously, is a certainty. It just depends on where Alex chooses to play him.

McGregor has developed into a wonderful all-round midfielder.

James Forrest hasn’t started recent games under Alex, but the time is right for that to change.

He was in brilliant form in midweek against RB Leipzig, and really thrust the Celtic team forward to put the Germans on the back foot.

Christie has been a revelation in recent weeks. He scored a fabulous goal against Hearts in the Betfred Cup semi-final and his fine form has continued.

He absolutely looked the part in last Thursday’s Europa League game, and it’s clear his confidence is sky-high.

When you are feeling so good about yourself – mentally and physically – then I’m all for allowing a player to kick on and keep the momentum going.

If that so happens to be in a Scotland jersey, then so be it, especially when Christie is operating at club level within a unit of effective and talented Scottish players.

Regardless of Alex’s team selection, I will back him.

I’ve known him for the best part of 40 years and we were team-mates at international level.

But that doesn’t mean I will back him to the hilt, and never see another side of the story. However, for now, we need to get behind him.

Beating Albania on Saturday night is well within our grasp. A draw wouldn’t be a disastrous result, either.

We would then know exactly what needs to be done at Hampden against Israel.

But the focus must be the next game.

It could well be that Alex selects a team for Saturday, and then makes four or five changes for the Tuesday night.

No matter who wears the Scotland jersey in these two games, I will cheer them on.

That’s the very least they – and big Alex – deserve from all of us as we try to secure a play-off spot for Euro 2020.

Cancel