THERE have been a fair few spectacular falls from grace in Scottish football history.

But has anyone in the game here ever gone, to use the old tabloid terminology, from hero to zero quite as quickly as Alex McLeish?

His widely-anticipated departure as manager of the national team today underlines, not that any verification was really required, just how cutthroat his profession is and how treacherous the job will be for the foolhardy soul who succeeds him.

Ally MacLeod went from being applauded and cheered by ebullient members of the Tartan Army as he was driven around Hampden on an open top bus with his players before the World Cup in Argentina in 1978 to being jeered and spat on by seething supporters after three infamous games against Peru, Iran and the Netherlands.

McLeish has just gone from being lauded by jubilant fans following a 3-2 win over Israel that saw his team to secure a Euro 2020 play-off spot to being sacked in the space of just 180 minutes - a disastrous 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan and unconvincing 2-0 win over San Marino.

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There will, as is always the case whenever a managerial vacancy arises, be no shortage of applicants for the post. The Scottish Football Association will be inundated with expressions of interest in the job in the coming days.

But the cruel fate suffered by McLeish shows just how demanding, as well as precarious, the role will be for the new incumbent.

The opening Group I loss in Nursultan last month that was the beginning of the end for the 77-times capped Scotland great was certainly bad. As poor a result as this country has ever suffered in fact. And there is no shortage of competition.

When Kazakhstan, who are placed 117th in the FIFA world rankings, were thrashed 4-0 at home to Russia a few days later it summed up just how dire the reverse had been.

But there were certainly mitigating circumstances which were quickly forgotten amid the fallout that followed the final whistle. Not least the loss of Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney in the days beforehand.

McLeish was 4,000 miles away in Central Asia and therefore unable to call up a replacement for the Celtic and Liverpool left backs at short notice. So he turned to Graeme Shinnie, the Aberdeen midfielder who has extensive experience in the specialist position, in his hour and a half of need. What other option did he have?

HeraldScotland:

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However, Shinnie’s lack of game time in defence on the artificial surface in the Astana Arena was obvious from kick-off. He made two bad mistakes in the opening 11 minutes and cost his side two goals as a result. There was just no recovering from that diabolical start for the visitors.

A manager’s destiny is determined by such cruel setbacks and fine margins.

McLeish was also, it is worth remembering, without Ryan Christie, Steven Fletcher, Ryan Fraser, Leigh Griffiths, Charlie Mulgrew, Steven Naismith and Callum Paterson, all players who would have been hoping to start, for that outing. Could another coach really have done any better in such a situation? Only time will tell.

There is, though, far more behind this morning’s SFA announcement that, after 14 months and just 12 games, McLeish would be moving on than one dire performance and costly result.

The appointment of the 60-year-old in February last year – after the failed and very public attempt to bring in Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill and then an abortive effort to lure Walter Smith out of retirement - was greeted with apathy by a bemused public from the get go.

Suggestions that SFA president Alan McRae and vice-president Rod Petrie, personal friends of the Aberdeen legend and former Hibernian manager, were behind the move have abounded and persisted since.

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It was, rightly or wrongly, viewed as a knee-jerk reaction to the criticism that had been levelled at the beleaguered governing body, a retrograde step by bungling blazers who were living in the past and out of touch with the realities of the modern game, even a favour for an old mate who was out work and looking to get back into football. Not even the most optimistic fan envisaged a bright future under the new man at the helm.

Results, a loss to Costa Rica in his first game, defeats to Peru and Mexico on the summer tour of South and North America, heavy friendly reverses to Belgium and Portugal and an embarrassment against Israel, did nothing to convince the doubters that McLeish was the man to take the country forward.

The decisions by Scott Brown, James McArthur and Allan McGregor to retire from international football as well as Steven Fletcher, Griffiths, Matt Ritchie and Robert Snodgrass making themselves unavailable for selection, led to claims that McLeish failed to command the respect of the players who were working under him. Those who did don the dark blue jersey begged to differ.

But their performances, against Costa Rica, Belgium, Portugal, Israel, Kazakhstan and San Marino in particular, weren't persuasive. Discontent among the Tartan Army steadily grew. The Scotland manager had few backers by the end and his exit had an air of inevitability about it.

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But McLeish, who oversaw wins over Hungary, Albania twice, Israel and San Marino, is deserving of gratitude. There were many accomplishments during his second tenure which were significant.

Most importantly, he quickly decided to put his faith in a new generation of players – something that, as Berti Vogts will readily testify, is never easy – and blooded the likes of Scott Bain, David Bates, Oli McBurnie, Scott McKenna, Marc McNulty, Scott McTominay, Stephen O’Donnell and John Souttar.

Elsewhere, Ryan Christie, Ryan Fraser and Callum McGregor came very much to the fore under him as Ikechi Anya, Christophe Berra, Darren Fletcher, Grant Hanley, Chris Martin and James Morrison were phased out. It has, at times, been a painful process. But in the seasons to come the country, and the new manager, will benefit.

McLeish also ensured that McTominay, the Lancashire-born Manchester United midfielder who had attracted the interest of his England counterpart Gareth Southgate after some encouraging outings for the Old Trafford club, committed himself to Scotland.

The 22-year-old has won seven caps to date without doing badly, but without blowing followers of his adopted homeland away. His superb displays against Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona in the Champions League knockout rounds, though, have subsequently shown he is a class, very possibly a world-class, performer.

McTominay played in the wins over Albania away and Israel at home back in November – games that showed 4-3-3 is the best formation for Scotland to use going forward after an unfortunate and prolonged experiment with a three man rearguard – that ensured the national team finished top of their Nations League group and secured a Euro 2020 play-off spot.

Whoever comes in, whether that is Steve Clarke, Scot Gemmill, Davie Moyes or somebody else, will be grateful for that safety net if his side fails to recover from the Kazakhstan result, finish above Belgium and Russia in Group I and qualify for next summer’s finals automatically.