Scots ready for talks to tie down McLeish

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The chief executive of the Scottish Football Association, Gordon Smith, admits that speculation over Alex McLeish's future is inevitable after Scotland's heroic yet failed Euro 2008 qualification attempt. But he said there had been no indication from the national coach that he wished to walk away before the qualification campaign begins for the World Cup in 2010.

Italy's 2-1 victory at Hampden dashed Scotland's hopes of reaching the European Championship next summer and prompted a raft of stories linking the former Rangers coach with vacant managerial posts, such as Birmingham City's in the Premier League.

And Smith, speaking at the launch of the new Kick Out Bigotry campaign, said: "It's the media that are causing the discussion. Alex has never spoken to me about leaving and I have not spoken to him about a new contract yet, we are just going along with it. He had a big game on Saturday and all the speculation is arising because we are out of the campaign. I can appreciate that when jobs come up at the highest level Alex could be a candidate. There will be speculation about him being a candidate even if he isn't and we will deal with that."

McLeish, who took over from Walter Smith in January, has said he could be lured back into club management if the right offer came along. And Smith, who will go to Durban with McLeish ahead of Sunday's 2010 World Cup qualifying draw, said an informal chat could be the way forward. He added: "Alex has a contract with the SFA and we are hoping he stays. We will speak further to see if there's any situation where he would like to extend it.

"It will be something that we have an informal discussion about as to how we take things forward. As far as we are concerned Alex is the manager and he will be taking the team forward to the campaign for the 2010 World Cup."

Smith knows the SFA would have a job on their hands finding a replacement should McLeish walk away. He said: "We don't want to have to replace Alex that's for sure. We are very comfortable with him as manager and we think he is doing a great job. He is a very positive type of person and he is the right man to be in the job at this moment in time so they would be huge shoes to fill. We are hoping that Alex is not actually in a position where he considers leaving. We feel that Alex is in a good job and we hope he likes it and we want him to stay."

Walter Smith believes the national team have grown in stature under his successor. Smith said: "It was a disappointing outcome to what was a great campaign for Scotland. I think the team have had a terrific campaign right from the outset. In the early part we had to make sure we didn't go losing goals, but since Alex has come in the team has grown in stature and confidence. I thought towards the end of the campaign they were playing their best football. It was terrific to see on Saturday, it's just a pity it didn't turn out the right way.

"I don't think there was much optimism going into the European Championship group, but there is now and that's a great step forward for us. We'll maybe get a bit of luck in the draw now."