England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008 meant the end of Steve McClaren’s 15 month managerial tenure, the former Alex Ferguson assistant’s current spell at Dutch side F.C. Twente amounting to something analogous to semi-exile from the game’s elite. Though Twente currently trail Heerenveen, 1-0, in the KNVB Cup Final following a 2nd place Eredivisie finish, When Saturday Comes‘ Rob Weston remains unimpressed, claiming “the most vilified England manager since Graham Taylor” is probably the same old Steve McClaren.
McClaren wasn’t as bad as he was made out to be when England failed to qualify for Euro 2008, nor is there any reason to suppose that he is a substantially better coach now than he was a year ago. Clearly he has done a good job at Twente but their total of 69 points wouldn’t have got them into the top three in two of the previous three seasons. Occasionally PSV or Ajax have a relatively bad season but it’s not happened to both at the same time since Feyenoord’s last championship ten years ago.
In the meantime McClaren’s former club Middlesbrough have been in meltdown. But the atmosphere around the Riverside is not substantially different to McClaren’s final season there when there were fan protests against him. He then got the England job because he seemed the best English option after the FA had bungled their approach to Luiz Felipe Scolari. The “wally with the brolly” jibes aimed at him after the Croatia debacle at Wembley amounted to collective bullying by the press who wanted a scapegoat “ and couldn’t face conceding that several of the best English players are not the world-class talents that they’re regularly made out to be.
Managers get hyped up too, of course. We’re now being asked to regard Guus Hiddink as a tactical genius for his revitalisation of Chelsea in the past few months. Yet his Russian side œlost 4-2 on aggregate to McClaren’s England and only qualified for Euro 2008 because Croatia won at Wembley. McClaren has been mocked for the Anglo-Dutch hybrid he adopted in interviews with the media in Holland over the past year but he might as well stick with it when he comes back “ that accent can take you a long way