Big Eck: I almost signed Tottenham's Bale for Birmingham
Four years ago, McLeish was in charge at Birmingham City and Bale was feeling the pressure at White Hart Lane.
"Gareth wasn't in the Spurs side at the time and Harry wasn't able to get him a game for whatever reason," Eck told the Daily Mail. "We heard a rumour that Harry Redknapp might let him out.
"So I chanced my arm early on in the week, giving Harry a ring and asking whether we could take Gareth on loan. He said he would get back to me and duly did 24 hours before Spurs were involved in a UEFA Cup tie, if my memory serves.
"He said: 'Alex, I've got no problem with him coming out to get games, but I just can't let him out because we've got a few injuries." I knew it was a long shot as Spurs had paid Southampton £5m for him. But there are a few moments when you wonder what might have been.
"What if he had come to Birmingham and enjoyed it? We were in the Championship at the time but eventually got promoted to the Premier League. That would have changed the picture for us financially. You just don't know. Unfortunately, this time, for us it didn't."