It was all change in the Midlands yesterday, with Alex McLeish named as Steve Bruce's successor as the manager of Birmingham City and Paul Jewell given the unenviable task of rescuing Derby County from relegation.
McLeish will be unveiled this morning after resigning as the Scotland coach yesterday afternoon. McLeish, 48, arrived back in Britain from the World Cup draw yesterday morning but finalised details of his move with Birmingham's chairman, David Gold, and co-owner, David Sullivan, before informing the Scottish Football Association in writing that he was stepping down.
McLeish earned £350,000 a year as Scotland manager, a post he took up in January on a contract that was supposed to run until the summer of 2010. He will more than double his basic salary at Birmingham after signing a deal with a strong emphasis on performance-related pay. Retaining Birmingham's Premier League status is his main goal this season and it is understood he will earn a six-figure bonus if he achieves it.
The SFA will seek compensation worth the full amount of the remainder of McLeish's SFA contract and it is understood this will be sanctioned swiftly by Birmingham, who received between £2m and £3m compensation from Wigan for Bruce. Eric Black, Bruce's assistant at St Andrew's, completed his own move to the JJB Stadium yesterday.
Jewell will be officially announced as the next manager of Derby in time to take charge of his first match, a relegation six-pointer at Sunderland, on Saturday. The former Wigan manager was finalising details last night with the Derby chairman Adam Pearson over a contract yet unspecified in length, but agreement had been reached in principle.
It is likely to be three or four years with Jewell thought to believe that while Derby face relegation this season, in the longer term they are a club with the potential to re-establish itself in the Premier League.
That would depend on fresh investment coming into Pride Park and Jewell's willingness to sign indicates that may happen sooner rather than later. Pearson has been speaking to possible investors in America and elsewhere recently.
Jewell, who has been courted by the Republic of Ireland, Leicester City and Preston, as well as at least two other English clubs, plus of course his old team Wigan, will have to appoint an entire new backroom staff. All were swept away by Derby with manager Billy Davies on Monday, but Jewell's assistant at Bradford City and Wigan, Chris Hutchings, will not be joining him this time around. Hutchings was only sacked by Wigan earlier this month.
Jewell had been Derby's coveted target even while Davies was in the job, but a measure of doubt about Jewell surfaced hours after Davies' dismissal when Paul Ince met with Derby officials. It now appears this was done out of courtesy to Ince.
Last night Jewell was installed as the new heavy favourite with many bookmakers suspending betting.
It means that the 43-year-old has been out of work for just six months. Jewell walked away from Wigan the day after he kept them up with a gutsy victory at Sheffield United on last season's final afternoon.
Wigan's chairman Dave Whelan suggested that Jewell had felt the pressure of Wigan's hard second season in the top flight, but in truth the manager knew that having led Wigan from the old third division to the Premier League and a League Cup final, there was little more he could do at the JJB Stadium.
Birmingham's next match, meanwhile, is away at Tottenham on Sunday, followed by a trip to Newcastle the following weekend. Blues then have three home games in December against relegation rivals Reading, Middlesbrough and Fulham, in between a trip to Bolton, before kicking off 2008 at Manchester United on 1 January.
McLeish had an illustrious playing career: as a stalwart under Ferguson at the Old Firm-busting Aberdeen; with Scotland, for whom he was capped 77 times and played for at three World Cups; and then with Motherwell, where his managerial career began in 1994. He led Motherwell to second place in the SPL, and moved to struggling Hibernian in 1998, where relegation was followed by immediate promotion. In 2001 he was poached by Rangers, where he won seven trophies, before stepping down in May 2006.
When Paul Le Guen's short-lived tenure as McLeish's replacement at Ibrox came to an end in January this year, Rangers poached Walter Smith from Scotland, and the SFA hired McLeish, whose stock has risen hugely since. He steered Scotland to the brink of qualification for Euro 2008 before they fell at the final hurdle.
The Scottish FA's board was meant to meet this morning to discuss whether to allow McLeish permission to talk to Birmingham but will convene instead to start work on finding a replacement, with Gary McAllister and Billy Davies both likely to be high on any short list of candidates. McAllister, 42, was considered by the SFA for the position when it was available in January.
Davies, 43, is available after being sacked by Derby this week and the manner of his departure will not harm his candidacy. He had previously been the manager at Motherwell, then assistant to the former Scotland manager, Craig Brown, at Preston, before taking sole charge in 2004.
Other candidates include Craig Levein, 43, who is currently reviving the fortunes of Dundee United, and Graeme Souness, 54, who has been out of work since being sacked by Newcastle last year.
New masters in the Midlands
Birmingham's next five fixtures: 2 Dec Tottenham (a), 8 Dec Newcastle Utd (a), 15 Dec Reading (h), 22 Dec Bolton Wanderers (a), 26 Dec Middlesbrough (h).
Derby's next five fixtures: 1 Dec Sunderland (a), 8 Dec Manchester Utd (a), 15 Dec Middlesbrough (h), 23 Dec Newcastle Utd (a), 26 Dec Liverpool (h).
Born: 21 Jan 1959, Glasgow
77 caps for Scotland
Born: 28 Sep 1964, Liverpool
1984-1988 Wigan Athletic
1988-1998 Bradford City
1998-2000 Bradford City
2000-2001 Sheffield Wednesday
2001-2007 Wigan AthleticReuse content