Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill believes Birmingham City have acquired "an excellent manager" in Alex McLeish as the duo prepare to renew their big city rivalry.
McLeish is set to unveiled as Blues' new manager at a press conference at St Andrew's tomorrow morning after formally resigning as Scotland manager. He was at Blues' Wast Hills training ground today, being shown around by goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink.
Steve Bruce’s successor was previously manager of Rangers and locked horns on many occasions with O’Neill during his days as Celtic manager. McLeish’s appointment has allowed Bruce’s number two Eric Black to rejoin him at Wigan as his assistant.
O’Neill said: "If Birmingham get Alex, and people are saying that is the case, they’ll be getting a very good manager, a very good manager indeed.
"He was at Rangers when I was at Celtic and is a really fine manager, no question about that. If Birmingham get Alex’s services, they will be doing very well indeed.
"I don’t know Alex socially at all. He won games early on (between Rangers and Celtic) and then we had a decent run but he is very good indeed.
"If Birmingham take him, he will be very good for them."
McLeish has been odds on to take control of Blues ever since bookmakers stopped taking bets on him moving to Birmingham before the weekend.
Black, a team-mate of McLeish at Aberdeen, was in caretaker charge for the 2-0 home defeat by Portsmouth but received no assurances about his future when he spoke with the Birmingham board after the game.
McLeish will become only the fourth manager during the 15 years that co-owner David Sullivan and chairman David Gold have been in charge of the club after Barry Fry, Trevor Francis and Bruce.
Birmingham moved quickly to secure his services once he returned to England early on Tuesday after attending the 2010 World Cup draw in South Africa.
He will more than double the £350,000 salary he commanded with Scotland and compensation with the Scottish FA of around £1million for the remaining two and a half years of his contract has not been a problem.
Birmingham will receive up to £3million from Wigan for releasing Bruce from the final 19 months of his contract.