He had become Rangers boss on December 11, 2001 and intitially worked in association with Dick Advocaat who became Director of Football. McLeish seemed to encourage performances out of a squad that had under-achieved and his success was instant.
He tasted victory in his first Old Firm match, the CIS Cup semi-final, and that set up a first trophy success when Ayr United were beaten in the final. McLeish followed that with a sensational Scottish Cup triumph, beating Celtic 3-2 in an epic match.
Despite limited resources on the transfer front, he stormed to a clean sweep in 2003 beating Celtic in the CIS Cup Final, Dundee in the Scottish Cup Final and clinching the SPL Title – Rangers’ 50th league crown – on goal difference from Gers’ great Parkhead rivals in an incredible final day shoot-out.
The break up of that team made life difficult for McLeish in season 2003/04 although the team started brightly with seven league wins and qualification to the Champions League.
The following season, however, was remarkable. Rangers defeated Celtic en route to a 5-1 CIS Cup Final drubbing of Motherwell and then they won the the title on the final day for the second time in three years.
Celtic’s unlikely flop at Fir Park coupled with Rangers’ win at Easter Road meant that the helicopter changed direction and delivered the SPL trophy with red, white and blue ribbons to the Leith ground.
A burning desire to succeed in Europe convinced McLeish to have another crack in 2005/06. Domestically, Rangers struggled over the winter period but the marvellous achivement of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League was the highlight of the campaign.
McLeish had already decided that it would be his last season as manager and the announcement was made in February 2006.
He left with a proud record of seven trophies in four and a half years.
McLeish had started his managerial career at Motherwell in 1994, after an illustrious career with Aberdeen which included winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983 and 77 international caps.
His first season in charge at Fir Park proved to be successful as the Lanarkshire outfit finished second to Rangers in the Premier League.
However, the subsequent years proved to be a bit of a struggle in an attempt simply to maintain the club’s status with the big boys.
The Well fans took Big Eck to their hearts and firmly believed they had one of Scotland’s top managers in the making.
Therefore they were devastated in February 1998 when he announced he was heading for Edinburgh to take charge of a Hibs squad in a dire position.The Hibees were fighting relegation and it was widely regarded that even the recruitment of McLeish couldn’t halt the slide.
And so it proved as the Easter Road men dropped down to Division One that summer. But McLeish wasted no time in taking them back up to what was now known as the SPL.
His recruitment of high-profile stars like Franck Sauzee and future Ibrox star Russell Latapy for very little cash earned him a reputation for being shrewd and calculated in his actions.
And his dismissal of Latapy from Easter Road in April 2001 after a well-publicised night out ensured McLeish was not a man to be messed with.
It was these qualities that attracted the attention of Dick Advocaat and David Murray as they searched for a new man to run the Rangers team.
And they eventually got him on December 11, 2001 as he moved from Leith to Govan to undertake his biggest challenge ever.
Ironically, the return of Walter Smith to Ibrox in January 2007 paved the way for McLeish to replace Smith as Scotland manager and in six matches he continued Smith’s good work and took the nation to the brink of qualification to Euro 2008 including a famous 1-0 win over France in the Parc des Princes.
The lure of club football was too strong and, after agonisingly losing the final qualifier against Italy, McLeish accepted the job at Birmingham City.