麥利殊在蘇格蘭格拉斯哥的杜克街醫院（Duke Street Hospital）出生，父親老阿歷斯（Alex）是一名船廠工人，母親名為珍（Jean），家裡還有兩名弟妹安琪拉（Angela）和伊安（Ian）。曾分別居於格拉斯哥的柏克黑德（Parkhead）和堅寧公園（Kinning Park），但於麥利殊達到上學年齡後不久舉家遷移到伦弗鲁郡（Renfrewshire）的巴尔黑德（Barrhead）定居。他就讀於斯普林希尔小学（Springhill Primary）和巴尔黑德高中（Barrhead High School），其後轉到佩斯利的约翰·尼尔森高中（John Neilson High School）。
麥利殊加盟鴨巴甸後的首兩個球季大部分時間在預備隊參賽，並曾外借到地區初級球隊刘易斯联（Lewis United）。他在比利·麦克尼尔（Billy McNeill）麾下首次為一隊上陣是於1978年1月2日的新年檔期對邓迪联；而他的首場主要決賽是在亚历克斯·弗格森任內於1978/79年度蘇格蘭聯賽盃以1-2負於格拉斯哥流浪中後補登場。但其後的7個球季麥利殊取得重大的成就，分別贏得8個本土及2個歐洲錦標。職業生涯亮點包括為「导师」（Dons）上陣第200場於1982年蘇格蘭足總盃決賽以4-1擊敗格拉斯哥流浪中取得入球，及在1983年的欧洲优胜者杯決賽擊敗皇家马德里奪標。
During this period, McLeish formed a formidable defensive triumvirate with 威利·米勒（Willie Miller） and 吉姆·礼顿（Jim Leighton） for both club and country. When Ferguson left in 1986 to go to 曼联, he tried to get McLeish to sign, but it did not work out; he also had talks with 热刺. 他在1990年贏得蘇格蘭FWA足球先生 , after a season in which Aberdeen won both domestic cups. He was captain of Aberdeen after the retirement of Willie Miller.
麥利殊是代表蘇格蘭歷史以來擁有出場次數最多排名第三位，由1980年開始至1993年期間總共77場。 He was first capped for the 蘇格蘭U21 team while still a reserve player at Aberdeen by his former club manager Ally MacLeod, eventually gaining six caps at that level. His full international debut came on 26 March 1980 against 葡萄牙, manager 乔克·斯泰恩 playing him in midfield alongside 阿奇·格米尔（Archie Gemmill） and 格雷姆·索内斯. He played in three 世界盃 with 蘇格蘭, in 1982年, 1986年 and 1990年. He is a member of both the 蘇格蘭足球名人堂 and the 蘇格蘭足球國際賽代表榮譽榜. On the occasion of his 50th cap, against 盧森堡 in 1987, McLeish was appointed team captain for the game. His final cap came on 17 February 1993 in a 3–0 win over 馬爾他 at 咸普頓公園球場 during the 1994年世界盃 qualifiers. He never scored in his 77 appearances for Scotland.
After his successful playing career he quickly went into football 管理 with 馬瑟韋爾 in 1994, one year before he retired as a player. His first season at Motherwell saw him take the 拉纳克郡（Lanarkshire） club to second in the Premier Division behind 沃尔特·史密斯's 格拉斯哥流浪. However, he failed to build on this success and the next two season were spent in relegation battles. He resigned as manager to take over at 喜百年 in 1998.
McLeish took over a struggling Hibernian side, which was relegated from the 蘇格蘭足球聯賽超級聯賽 in 1998 despite a slight upturn in fortunes under McLeish. He then guided the 爱丁堡 team back to the 蘇超 at the first attempt by winning the 蘇甲 championship.
Hibernian consolidated in their first season back in the top division, finishing mid-table and reaching the 蘇格蘭足總盃 semi-final. In the 2000–01 season, Hibs started very strongly. Eventually they had to settle for third place and a Scottish Cup final appearance. This performance attracted the attention of bigger clubs, including 韋斯咸 and 格拉斯哥流浪.
McLeish attracted top players such as 拉塞尔·拉塔皮（Russell Latapy） and former 法國國腳 弗兰克·索济（Franck Sauzée） to Hibs. He also helped develop young striker 肯尼·米勒（Kenny Miller）, who would later go on to play for Scotland.
His work at Hibs was noticed, and he was linked with several moves to England, before he was appointed as 格拉斯哥流浪 manager in December 2001 after outgoing Rangers manager 迪克·艾德沃卡特 recommended McLeish to chairman 大卫·穆雷（David Murray）.
McLeish was an instant success at Rangers, winning both the 蘇格蘭足總盃 and 蘇格蘭聯賽盃 in his first season, but the big prize of the league title was essentially lost before his arrival. His second season saw him go one better when he won the domestic treble, with the help of players such as 罗纳德·德波尔 and 巴利·費格遜.
Rangers' worsening financial state saw many of his top players leave in the summer of 2003. Celtic won the league comfortably in season 2003–04, and Rangers failed to win any trophies. McLeish was consequently put under pressure from fans after his poor signings and a record run of seven consecutive derby losses to Celtic.
The high profile 波士文法案 signings of 让-阿兰·布姆松 and 达多·普尔绍 in the close season of 2004–05 gave Rangers renewed hope of regaining the title from Celtic's grasp. McLeish's team won the 2005 league title on a dramatic last day, an outcome that had looked highly unlikely after Rangers fell five points behind leaders Celtic with just four games remaining.
After this unexpected success, McLeish and his Rangers team headed into the 2005/06年球季 SPL campaign as favourites to retain the championship. McLeish made a number of signings, including 朱利安·罗德里格斯（Julien Rodriguez） and 伊恩·穆雷（Ian Murray）, despite having little money to spend. After a reasonable start to the season, including a win over Celtic, Rangers suffered a series of poor results between September and November. This period included a club record of 10 games without a win. However the tenth match of this run, a 1–1 draw with 國際米蘭 in the 欧洲冠军联赛, took Rangers into the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time.
Despite the poor domestic form, McLeish guided Rangers to the last 16 of the Champions League, where they were defeated on the 作客入球優惠制 by 比利亞雷阿爾. They became the first Scottish team to progress this far in the European Cup since 1993, and the first Scottish team to progress through a European group stage. In December, chairman David Murray publicly announced his support for McLeish. Rangers then went on a good run of results in December and January.
This run of good results came to a sudden halt when they were defeated 3–0 by Hibernian in the Scottish Cup, prompting protests outside Ibrox against both McLeish and David Murray. On 9 February 2006, it was announced by chairman David Murray that McLeish would be standing down as manager at the end of that season.
McLeish said after leaving Rangers that he would not manage another Scottish club, because he felt that he had achieved everything in the Scottish game. He was linked in the media with a number of managerial positions in England while he worked as a television pundit for the 英国广播公司 and 塞坦塔體育頻道（Setanta Sports）.
McLeish's first game in charge of the national team was a 2008年欧洲足球锦标赛外围赛 match, a 2–1 victory against 格魯吉亞 on 24 March 2007 at 咸普頓公園球場. His second game was an away fixture against 意大利 on 28 March 2007 which ended in a 2–0 defeat.
McLeish's Scotland side then went on to defeat the 法羅群島 away in June, 立陶宛 at home in September before recording a historic victory in 巴黎 four days later by defeating 法國 1–0 in the 王子公园体育场. 詹姆斯·麦克法登（James McFadden）'s 64th-minute strike from 30 yards was enough to earn Scotland the win and returned them to the top of Group B with three games to play. This result has been hailed as one of the Scotland national team's greatest victories. Scotland's next success was at home to 烏克蘭, winning 3–1 at Hampden on 13 October. McLeish suffered his second defeat as manager, away in Georgia on 17 October. This result left him facing a decider against the World Champions, Italy. Scotland lost the game, McLeish's last, and Italy qualified for the finals.
2007年11月27日，蘇格蘭足球協會發出聲明拒絕英格兰足球超级联赛球會伯明翰城向其提出要求准許接觸麥利殊商討接任領隊之要求但同日麥利殊於出席完於南非舉行之2010年世界盃外圍賽抽簽儀式返回蘇格蘭後就向蘇格蘭足球協會辭任蘇格蘭國家隊領隊。翌日，伯明翰宣佈麥利殊為新任領隊並簽約三年半，他於蘇格蘭國家隊的助手Roy Aitken及Andy Watson會一併加盟。麥利殊稱他一直希望能每日和球員一起工作及能於英超球會擔任管理，能有此挑戰他感到很興奮。
He enjoyed a positive managerial debut with Birmingham, winning 3–2 away to 熱刺. 在2008年1月的 轉會窗, McLeish strengthened Birmingham's squad, 簽下 大卫·墨菲 與 詹姆斯·麦克法登（James McFadden） 又將簽下阿根廷U20小國腳 的毛羅·薩拉特 on loan, while generating funds by allowing fringe players to leave. He was unable to save Birmingham from relegation, despite the team recording an impressive 4–1 victory over 布力般流浪 on the last day of the season.
McLeish changed the club's backroom staff and training procedures, appointed 大衛·華特森 as goalkeeping coach, and overhauled the scouting setup, bringing in 保罗·蒙哥马利（Paul Montgomery） – the scout who recommended a relatively unknown 迪迪埃·德罗巴 to 韋斯咸 – to oversee player recruitment.
On the final day of the 2008–09 season, McLeish secured Birmingham's return to the top flight of English football at the first attempt with a 2–1 away victory over 雷丁. By mid-January 2010, he had guided them to a 12-game unbeaten run, a club record in the top division, set a Premier League record by selecting the same starting eleven for nine consecutive games, and been named 「英超每月最佳領隊」for December 2009, the first Birmingham manager to receive the award. By the end of the season McLeish had led Birmingham to ninth place, their highest finish for more than 50 years.
Following Birmingham's success during the 2009–10 season, McLeish agreed a new three-year deal with the club in September 2010. In February 2011, McLeish led Birmingham to victory in the 聯賽盃, defeating favourites 阿仙奴 2–1 in 決賽 at 温布利球场 in what he described as "relatively speaking, ... [his] greatest achievement". However, a poor run of form followed the League Cup win, and Birmingham were relegated to the 英格蘭足球冠軍聯賽 on the last day of the 2010–11 season.2011年5月23日，伯明翰代理主席稱麥利殊會繼續擔任領隊職位，最重要任務是下一球季能取得返回英超資格。2011年6月12日，伯明翰証實麥利殊以電郵形式向球會請辭。
2011年6月17日，剛辭職伯明翰城領隊5天後，同市球隊阿士東維拉任命麥利殊為領隊並簽約三年即時生效。 There was much controversy surrounding his appointment as Birmingham City claimed McLeish was still under contract and filed a complaint against Aston Villa to the Premier League while Villa claimed McLeish was a free agent. 阿士東維拉球迷於正式任命麥利殊為領隊前一日在維拉公園球場外進行抗議及塗鴉，之後一些反對麥利殊塗鴉被抺掉。 麥利殊首名簽入的球員為在曼城不受重用的守門員沙伊·吉文，並簽約五年, 接着以950萬英鎊購入韋根法國籍翼鋒查尔斯·恩佐比亚簽約五年。 麥利殊首場帶領阿士東維拉的正式比賽為英超作客卡雲農舍球場對富咸，最終以0–0握手言和。之後第二輪英超主場對布力般流浪比賽以3–1 勝出，為麥利殊帶來首場勝利。但接着四場英超比賽都是和局收場。到第七輪英超主場對韋根以 3–1 勝出。 但在第八輪英超作客曼城時被1–4撃敗，結朿當季不敗紀錄。 麥利殊於2011年大除夕當日英超作客車路士並以3–1 反勝可稱為當季代表作。2013年1月12日美職聯洛杉磯銀河同意將罗比·基恩借用至阿士東維拉到2月25日。而罗比·基恩於2012年1月21日英超護級大戰作客狼隊時於連入兩球令阿士東維拉反勝3–2。麥利殊所帶領之維拉於2011/12年英超球季排名第16位，比降級球會只多兩分及創出全季只得四場主場勝出比賽之最差紀錄。 2012年5月14日阿士東維拉宣佈由於成績差及表現未如理想即時辭退領隊麥利殊。 麥利殊至今仍保持阿士東維拉歷任領隊歷史上得勝率最差領隊，只得21.4%。
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