Saturday, May 10, 2008

A tale of two Ecks

In different ways a strange week for two Scottish coaches. Alex Miller sets off from Rafa's shoulder to Japan where he is charged with taking JEF United Chiba (no me either) off the foot of the J-League.

Miller managed Morton, St Mirren, Hibs and Aberdeen in Scotland before winding up in the Anfield boot room in 1999.

Something of a draw specialist his greatest achievements in Scotland were European qualification for St Mirren and then moulding the Love Street side that would win the Scottish Cup after his departure for Easter Road. In Edinburgh he stayed loyal during the club's flirt with bankruptcy and the Wallace Mercer takeover bid. He guided Hibs to the UEFA Cup and won the League Cup in 1991.

But most Hibs fans still remember his time as dour and uninspiring. A decent coach but not a man manager. Maybe that won't be a problem when he deals with players through interpreters. He's always had detractors, many of them at Pittodrie, and his PR skills are cruelly betrayed by a demeanour that made him look like Uriah Heep at a wake as he "celebrated" Liverpool winning the Champion's League.

Still Japan offers one last fling as his own man and a not to be sniffed at salary to top up the pension.

Elsewhere Alex McLeish takes Birmingham into the final weekend of the English Premier League with relegation still a threat. I think it's fair to say that Alex has more friends in the media than he has amongst the fans of the clubs he has managed. The pundits on Radio Five seemed taken aback tonight when a Rangers fan suggested that the faithful at Ibrox, Easter Road and Fir Park would not be surprised if Birmingham go down.

In a week dominated by talk of fixture congestion I cast my mind back to Chick Young's constant bleating about big Alex outperforming Martin O'Neill. Of course in those days Chick didn't like to use the excuse that one of McLeish's SPL triumphs came on the final day of the season, days after Celtic lost the UEFA Cup Final.

Still he won trophies with Rangers before he turned a bit crap. He started well at Motherwell and left as they were getting crap to go to Hibs where he couldn't stop them going down, won the First Division, had a decent season, then half a decent season then left when they got a bit crap. One thing you know he is not is a stayer.

Am I surprised Birmingham might go down? Nah, not really. I'm not really sure that McFadden was ever going to shine in a relegation battle and I'm not sure that once the speeches are over McLeish has the tactical ability to change things when the game starts slipping away.

Close though and they might just do it. Expect him to be lauded once more as a great guy and a fine manger. Maybe Alex Miller could borrow his PR man. One thing is for sure though, if the worst does happen I would far prefer Miller's Eastern exile than McLeish's challenge in the Championship.