McLeish keeps job on strength of Champions' League form

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The Independent Football

Alex McLeish, a history maker at Rangers for the best and worst of reasons in recent weeks, will keep his job as the manager "indefinitely", the club's chairman, David Murray, announced last night.

McLeish's position had been in doubt, as Murray himself has acknowledged more than once, because of Rangers' terrible domestic form. The reigning SPL champions are 17 points behind the leaders, Celtic, and lie in fifth place after their worst start to a season in 22 years. Their winless run of 10 matches in all competitions makes the current team officially the poorest in Rangers' history.

Yet Murray said last night that Rangers' European achievements had swayed him to keep McLeish, or "McLazarus" as some fans are already dubbing him for surviving what seemed an inevitable sacking.

By drawing 1-1 with Internazionale on Tuesday, Rangers became the first Scottish club to progress to the knock-out stages of the Champions' League, albeit through a weak group.

"Although we recognise that results in our domestic league are not of the standard that all at Rangers expect, we should not minimalise one of our greatest achievements in European history," Murray said.

"We have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions' League with limited resources, and we are confident that when normal league business resumes, our squad, who are fully behind our manager, can improve on our current league position. I am sure when further success returns, we will enjoy it even more."

Rangers' poor league form is partly because of an injury crisis, although they were struggling before it became serious. It is believed that Murray would have replaced McLeish if a replacement, such as Paul Le Guen, who reportedly rejected more than one approach, had been available and affordable. Similarly, it is understood that McLeish had been exploring his options in England.

It now seems that all parties are content to continue the struggle to turn Rangers' fortunes around. McLeish will celebrate four years in charge next Tuesday. A Champions' League last-16 double-header against Arsenal, Barcelona, Milan, Liverpool, Lyon, Juventus or Villarreal awaits in the New Year.