James Forrest became the first player to score a hat-trick for Scotland since Robert Snodgrass in September 2016 as the Tartan Army finished top of Group C1 – which guarantees them a Euro 2020 play-off spot.
McLeish was at the helm when Scotland recorded a memorable victory over France in Paris back in June 2007, but it wasn’t enough to seal a first place at a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
The 59-year-old gained promotion in his first season in charge of Hibernian in 1999, while he later enjoyed success in the League Cup with Birmingham in 2011 – but McLeish feels taking his country one step closer to Euro 2020 is among his greatest achievements.
He said: “It’s up there with them. I’m extremely proud of it because we are in an era where the national team has struggled a little bit. We’ve obviously not qualified for a major tournament in a big while as far as the Tartan Army is concerned so we’re really proud of the guys in that respect.
“My backroom staff have worked tirelessly for this. We’ve taken a few hits. We said we probably would with the teams we’ve been playing but we managed the game well.
“You have to get a perspective on it and say I’ve only played four competitive games, three we’ve won and one we’ve lost. With the friendly games there’s a bit of a frenzy that builds up but I had to find that strength.”
Not since October 2007 during his first stint in charge has McLeish won consecutive matches as Scotland manager, but he can look forward to a semi-final in the play-offs in March 2020.
Celtic winger Forrest has played a vital role in propelling Scotland to top spot with his five goals in his last two games coming after he had failed to score in any of his previous 24 appearances.
McLeish added: “Of course special mention must go to James Forrest for his goals. Five goals is quite an incredible return for a winger. We spoke to James in the Portugal game and we thought he could get inside and get in those kind of areas where did some damage against St Johnstone.
“He took the mantle and getting in there as he did on Saturday and coming into the box as he did tonight is amazing, just amazing football.”
Scotland were fortunate to clinch all three points as Eran Zahavi set up a tense finale by scoring Israel’s second with 15 minutes remaining.
Allan McGregor produced a stunning save to deny Tomer Hemed’s late volley, and McLeish said: If you want a goalkeeper behind you when a chance like that comes it is Allan McGregor.
“He’s been in fantastic form. He’s made a few big saves for Rangers as well and also for Scotland.
“That was a phenomenal save and he deserves the highest credit before.”