Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughMcClaren's Chance of Redemption - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough McClaren's Chance of Redemption - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

McClaren’s Chance of Redemption

With all fuss about Alex McLeish potentially heading across the second city divide to Aston Villa, another Midlands managerial appointment has somewhat snuck under the radar. It’s just 10 years ago that Steve McClaren was being vaunted as one of the top coaches in England, now he finds himself at a club who are still aiming for promotion to the Premier League 12 years after relegation.

McClaren’s record in the meantime is one that many managers would be envious of. After all, his success with Middlesbrough is often underplayed, especially in the cup competitions. The 2004 victory in the League Cup was the first trophy in the club’s history, and the first time they had qualified for European competition. The following season, McClaren again qualified for the UEFA Cup, this time through league positions. Boro went on to reach the final after a couple of fairy-tale results in the quarter and semi-finals; twice they were three goals down, and twice they managed to score four unanswered goals to qualify 4-3.

Yet, his work at Middlesbrough is unlikely to be forgotten quickly, at least not in other areas of the country. During his time on Teesside, he presided over a number of young English talents’ progression to the first team, not least the likes of Stewart Downing, James Morrison, Adam Johnson and Lee Cattermole. Each of these are now established Premier League players, many of them internationals.

This relative success is often forgotten about, with English media focussing instead on his time with England; ‘the Wally with the Brolly’. What is often ignored is the relative strength of the group from which England failed to qualify. Group E winners Croatia would reach the quarter finals, losing only on penalties after topping a group including Germany during the tournament itself. Russia were arguably the team of the tournament, losing only to eventual winners Spain in the semi-finals following their destroying of the Netherlands. While much was made of England’s faults, of which there were and still are many, little credit was given to the two teams who qualified above them.

McClaren’s domestic reputation was in tatters, and so he took the brave step of moving abroad to FC Twente, where he was an unmitigated success, finishing second in his first season before becoming the first Englishman to win a major league since Sir Bobby Robson won the Portuguese league with Porto in 1996. This was Twente’s first ever league win, and his stock throughout Europe was at a career high.

However, he then chose to move to Wolfsburg, lasting just 21 matches, of which he won only five. It could be argued that Wolfsburg was a poisoned chalice, an aging team with want away (Edin Dzeko) and problem players (Diego). In addition to this, McClaren’s early tenure was beset by bad luck, a last minute winner for Bayern Munich on his debut was followed by a reversal of his Middlesbrough fortunes; losing 4-3 having led 3-0 to surprise package Mainz.

Given McClaren’s success in Europe, and new knowledge base of players, it seems strange that no Premier League club has come in for him; Fulham went straight for Martin Jol, whilst Aston Villa were seemingly put off by fans protesting his appointment. Yet he brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences that many other managers do not have. He has managed three club sides, winning trophies for two of them. Considering Aston Villa have been trophyless since 1996, I’m not sure what it was the supporters were expecting.

Now he is at Nottingham Forest, managing the Championship, a league he has not competed in since his early days at Derby County. This should not be a surprise, a remarkable number of recent England managers have all taken over Championship clubs; Sven Göran Eriksson (Leicester City), Kevin Keegan (Manchester City), Glenn Hoddle (Wolves) and Graham Taylor (also Wolves) have all sought redemption in England’s second tier, with varying levels of success. Forest, starved of trophies since their 1980s heyday and McClaren, aiming to prove England wrong could well be a match made in heaven.

Tom Bason

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