SFA denies McLeish was easy option

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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish, the new Scotland manager, is under no pressure to achieve qualification for Euro 2008, according to the Scottish Football Association's chief executive, David Taylor.

McLeish, 48, succeeded Walter Smith to the national job this week and must now prepare for March matches against Georgia at home and Italy away. Scotland are top of Group B with nine points from four games.

Taylor said: "No one is saying, 'You have to qualify or else'. We would be delighted if we qualified but if we continue to show improvements we'll be happy. The target remains unchanged. We are looking to continue the steady progress we have made over the last year or two."

The feeling remains in some parts that the SFA's appointment of McLeish was a marriage of convenience. The former Aberdeen and Rangers defender and Hibernian and Rangers manager had been out of work since he left Ibrox at the end of last season and other credible candidates were scarce.

Taylor said: "I absolutely disagree with that. You just have to look at the experience Alex has as a manager and previously as a player. The interesting thing is he is one of the most-capped players for Scotland and it's been a long time since we last appointed a former player. It wasn't a major factor but it's an indication that he's got a commitment to the cause and that he is aware of the pressures of operating on the international stage as a player.

"The most important thing was to have someone with experience, not someone who was going to come in and start all over again, or change everything."

McLeish's assistant, Roy Aitken, whose last post was as assistant to David O'Leary at Aston Villa, also played down expectations. He said: "To get to any major tournament nowadays is very, very tough. The main thing is to continue the progress. We don't want to talk too much about qualification because there are still a lot of games to go and there are tough matches ahead."

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