Birmingham appoint McLeish

Alex McLeish was confirmed as the new manager of Birmingham City at a news conference held by the Engish Premier League club on Wednesday, just a day after he resigned as Scotland coach.

Birmingham chairman and co-owner David Gold said McLeish had joined on a three-and-a- half-year contract. The Blues, just a point above the relegation zone, were left without a manager when Steve Bruce quit earlier this month to join top flight rivals Wigan Athletic, who are second bottom in the division.

Bruce left the Blues amidst growing uncertainty as to whether a proposed takeover by Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung would go through. Former Glasgow Rangers manager McLeish guided Scotland to seven wins in ten matches after replacing Walter Smith, who quit the national side in January for a second spell in charge of the Ibrox club.

But despite wins home and away against France, a 2-1 home defeat by reigning world champions Italy at Hampden Park meant Scotland failed to qualify for next year's UEFA EURO 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland.

McLeish told a news conference at Birmingham's St Andrews ground that the combined attraction of day-to-day involment and the Premier League had proved hard to resist. "The Scotland campaign was over and I really thought long and hard about staying on.," he explained.

"I knew of some interest in the Premier League and had a desire to get back to day-to-day football. I really enjoyed my time in the Scotland job, it was a good period for me which was not day to day but allowed me to rekindle my appetite for the club scene again.

"I've come to a club in great tradition in football with a fervent and fantastic fan base. I look forward to the challenge."

Gold, alongside McLeish at the news conference, said Yeung's planned takeover was looking increasingly unlikely. He also added he found it hard to understand takeover rules which prevented Birmingham giving Bruce an improved deal but allowed City to appoint McLeish.

"It's bizarre in the sense that the takeover board wouldn't allow you to enhance an existing contract, however it is quite in order, in the event that that contract ends, it is within the power of the board to offer a brand new contract to a brand new person."

Asked about the takeover, Gold replied: "I started off believing the bid was 90 per cent assured and a couple of weeks ago I reduced that to 75 percent. Now I believe it's only 50 percent but only time will tell.

"The (current) board must actually take charge of the club and fully act as if the takeover doesn't happen, that's why we brought in Alex and are looking forward to the future."

McLeish said he was fully aware of thow the club's financial situation would affect his ability to deal in the January transfer window. "I know the parameters and I'm comfortable with that," he said.

McLeish's arrival at St Andrews means he will once again be involved in a derby rivalry with Martin O'Neill, previously manager of Rangers' Glasgow arch-rivals Celtic, who is now in charge of Birmingham-based Aston Villa, seventh in the Premier League.

Roy Aitken, McLeish's Scotland assistant, has taken a similar role with the Blues. The new management team's first game in charge of Birmingham will be Sunday's league match away to Tottenham Hotspur.