Part 4: Alex McLeish RYDC Exclusive

RYDC hosted a Twitter Q&A with former Rangers manager Alex McLeish recently and we have featured some of the content from his session this week.

Big Eck has already revealed Dado Prso was the best signing he made at the club and discussed his cup-double debut season, the Treble in 2002/03 and Helicopter Sunday in 2005.

Today he recalls another fantastic triumph, achieved in his final campaign as Rangers boss – qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League in 2005/06.

As the Light Blues became the first Scottish club to achieve that feat in UEFA’s flagship club competition.

Alex said: Obviously the successes are uppermost in my mind. But there was a bit of pressure on me in my last season and we had a really depleted squad in the first half of that season. I wanted to win every game as the Rangers manager and I knew the expectations of the Rangers fans.

“At the time due to injuries we didn’t really have the experience or the quality but at the same time I didn’t want to play defensively and just play teams on the counter attack.

“If you are the Rangers manager playing at Ibrox you have to win, especially in domestic games.

“The good point of that last season was the European run and the Porto games – winning at Ibrox and drawing away - and qualifying for the last 16 of the Champions League.

“That was more tactical. We didn’t have to go all out and attack against these European teams. We were very well organised and had a strong backline and the players worked their socks off.

“Ross McCormack got an important goal in the away draw at Porto and we then had a draw at home against Inter Milan and that was hugely important as well for us.

“When we were up against it, that Champions League run was the one that gave me the most satisfaction in what was a barren time.

“The mentality of individuals like Barry Ferguson was part of it the other thing was we played a lot of young guys. People like Bob Malcolm who wasn’t a regular but was still a very good footballer

“Dado was injured for the first part of the season and we probably didn’t have the quality of squad we were used to in previous seasons.

“As the Rangers manager I felt it was still my duty to win every domestic game. Even with a lack of experience in the squad. We played on the counter in Europe and started cautiously.

“We had to be careful not to bombard teams too early knowing they had very dangerous players on the counter attack.

“So that Champions League campaign was a bit more tactical and the young guys really acquitted themselves well, guys who would not normally have been first choices.

“When you are organised and hard to beat it can be difficult for the opposition and that’s what we tried to do in the Champions League.”

Earlier this week Alex told us Dado Prso was his best signing at Rangers and now he reveals he came close to adding two Spanish superstars to his squad during his tenure.

He revealed: “We dabbled with Pep Guardiola before he left Barcelona to move to Italian team Brescia. Maybe he thought the weather would be better there than Glasgow!

“We felt we needed a midfielder and had chats with Guardiola’s people. I met him at the Ryder Cup in America a few years ago and mentioned that to him.

“But Andres Iniesta was the one we really pushed for. That would have been a loan move. We wanted a dominant midfielder and he was it, although he was very young.

“He was flirting with the Barcelona first team and Jan Wouters made some calls to Frank Rijkaard and his assistant.

“They gave us a wee chink of light but come the weekend he played for Barcelona and played really well. So they told us there was no way they could let him go.

“It was a wee bit of a pipe dream but it might have been interesting. But I would rather applaud the players we worked with and were so successful with.

“We had great staff and a really good rapport with staff throughout the whole club at that time. It was just a phenomenal part of my career.

“I’ve not mentioned Alex Rae yet but he was one of the players who would run through a brick wall for me. I saw him play at Wolves and he was tremendous. I thought he could be a driving force for Rangers and I phoned David Murray after the game and he made it happen.

“Alex was also a great foil for me in Belgium (with Genk). He is the only guy I have ever seen who doesn’t need a warm up and doesn’t pull hamstrings when he goes out and starts lashing balls into the net.

“Alex and I went to many of the youth games together as it was a transitional year and we took a few into the squad.

“We had Timothy Castagne who is now at Leicester and a good few others like Wilfred Ndidi – who was the only signing we could make that year and he was a free.

“Alex and I took great pride in the work we did with the players there. If we had stayed we could have become legends.

“Alex was well liked by all and has tremendous enthusiasm.

“I have been at the front line at clubs trying to win trophies or keep clubs up but I wouldn’t mind helping a young manager with recruitment as a Sporting Director.

“Recruitment is one of the single most important tasks at any football club. I still see signings being made all over the place and wonder if they have spent the money well or if players are the finished article.”

Alex is pictured promoting the Rangers Youth Development Company.

Since 2002, profit from RYDC products has gone to the Rangers Academy with well over £8.5 million donated in that time.

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