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Former Scotland coach McLeod dies

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GLASGOW, Scotland (Reuters) -- Former Scotland coach Ally McLeod, who led his country to the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina, has died at the age of 72.

McLeod had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

"Obviously, everybody in Scottish football is saddened to hear of his death," an SFA spokesman said.

"Although he is perhaps best known as the Scotland manager in '77 and '78, Ally was a guy who devoted his entire life to football as a player with several clubs and then as manager."

Born in Glasgow in 1931, the charismatic McLeod played for Blackburn Rovers and Hibernian but really made his name as a coach.

He was appointed Ayr United manager in 1966 and led the unfashionable club from the Scottish second division to the top flight before moving to Aberdeen in 1975, where he won the League Cup.

McLeod succeeded Willie Ormond as Scotland manager in 1977 and had high hopes of success in the following year's World Cup.

Dismal campaign

The team endured a dismal campaign, however, exiting the tournament after the first round despite possessing talented players such as Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.

A 3-1 defeat by Peru was followed by a 1-1 draw with Iran and even a famous 3-2 win over eventual runners-up the Netherlands, which included a spectacular goal by Archie Gemmill, failed to keep the Scots in the tournament.

To compound matters, midfielder Willie Johnston was infamously sent home after failing a drugs test and McLeod came in for severe criticism on his return home.

Rangers manager Alex McLeish paid tribute to McLeod, who gave the former Scotland defender his break in the senior game when he signed him for Aberdeen.

Informed that he had passed away McLeish told reporters on Sunday: "I'm sad to hear that -- he was a great man. I know Ally wasn't well for some time and I know his family well. I send my condolences to Faye (his wife) and the family.

"He was a fantastic character, had great enthusiasm on the training ground and had everybody buzzing. I think the criticism of him after the World Cup was over the top."

McLeod enjoyed further spells in management in the 1980s at Motherwell, Airdrie and for a second spell at Ayr, where he spent much of his retirement playing golf.

• Peter Lovenkrands scored the only goal of the game as second-placed Rangers beat last-placed Partick Thistle 1-0 in the Scottish premier league.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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