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The Rise And Fall Of The Wally With A Brolly

It’s a chilly and wet November evening in northwest London, the rain is hammering down onto an already saturated playing surface. Mladen Petric’s fizzed effort has won the game for Croatia and millions of Englishmen are inconsolable. On the Wembley touchline Steve McClaren cuts a desolate figure, England have failed to qualify for a major tournament for the first time in fourteen years and he knows his time in the hotseat has come to a premature end.

Comically dubbed ‘the wally with the brolly’, failing to guide England to the finals of Euro 2008 was undoubtedly the low point of McClaren’s budding career up to that point. He was of course relieved of his duties following such an enormous failure, and it was unclear where he would go from there.

In a somewhat bold and rare move that deserves much credit, McClaren decided to venture abroad for his next foray into club management, Dutch side FC Twente providing his eventual destination.

His time in Holland proved an unprecedented success. In a two year stint at Twente, McClaren guided the club to a second placed finish and a cup final, before going on to deliver the first Eredivisie triumph in the club’s relatively short history. McClaren was overjoyed by his success in a foreign country and was awarded the Rinus Michels Award at the end of his second season, the Dutch award for manager of the year.

Following his success in Holland, McClaren was being courted by several clubs across Europe and at the start of the 2010/11 season crossed the border into Germany to become the first Englishman to manage a premier German club, taking over at VfL Wolfsburg.

Unfortunately McClaren’s Dutch love affair was not to be repeated in the tougher world of the Bundesliga and he appeared to struggle. Having lost his first three games in charge, Wolfsburg then went on a winning run that propelled them into the top six, but further inconsistency lay ahead and having been given the infamous and dread vote of confidence he was dismissed in February after a particularly disappointing spell.

Following a three-year absence from his homeland, McClaren was linked with a number of vacant managerial positions in England and finally accepted the role of Nottingham Forest manager in June.

But now it appears his reputation on these shores has once again been dealt a bitter blow. Just 112 days after taking the reins at the City Ground McClaren has resigned his position as manager. He leaves Forest fourth from bottom in the Championship, with a very poor record of eight points from ten league games and failed to win in five home games.

However, McClaren himself has not cited the team’s poor form as the reason for his resignation. Much like his predecessor Davies, McClaren appeared to have a rather fractious relationship with the Chairman and board at Forest, claiming the club’s refusal to sanction the loans of two Premier League players as the final straw that caused him to walk away.

So just where does McClaren go from here? Following his self-imposed exile the Forest position was supposed to be his triumphant return to English club management, a long-awaited two fingers up to those in this country who continued to mock him for his England shortcomings.

Crushingly for a man who has seemingly worked so hard to rebuild his shattered reputation, it appears as if McClaren will have to start all over again. A job in England’s top two footballing tiers now seems unlikely following his latest failure, and he may have to be prepared to set his ambitions slightly lower if he is to manage in this country again. Perhaps another spell abroad may have another positive effect on the man, providing he has the heart and determination for another venture into the unknown.

Following the McClaren debacle, it is being widely rumoured that Forest will turn to what they consider to be an ‘up and coming’ manager to fill the vacant position. The name being most widely circulated at present seems to be 31-year-old MK Dons gaffer Karl Robinson, who is currently attempting to guide the Dons to promotion from League One. However Robinson has moved this week to distance himself from rumours surrounding his future and has pledged loyalty to his current employers.

Another name being closely linked with the job will be perhaps a little unfamiliar with many fans. Aston Villa first team coach Kevin MacDonald is apparently in the running, a risk perhaps considering his lack of experience managing outside of reserve team football.

MacDonald has had two spells as caretaker manager, once of Leicester City back in 1994 and another as recently as 2010 with Aston Villa, and he was also rumoured to be being considered to take the role as Villains boss permanently at that time before the board eventually turned to Gerard Houllier.

Managers also being linked with the job across the media include Paul Tisdale, orchestrator of Exeter’s rise from the Conference to League One in consecutive seasons and Mark Robins, the former Rotherham manager who departed his post at Barnsley early this season due to difficulties with the board at Oakwell.

And of course it would be foolish to discuss the vacant managerial position at Forest without lending a brief mention of one Martin O’Neil. Out of work since his shock departure from Villa in 2010, the Northern Irishman enjoyed a distinguished playing career at the City Ground during a ten year period, playing an integral role in a hugely successful period for the club. He is sure to be many people’s favourite for the job, but could well be spurned in favour of someone with a slightly lower profile following the McClaren affair.

Whoever succeeds Steve McClaren at Forest may have an easier time of things at least with regards to the relationship with the suits upstairs. Taking full responsibility for the situation regarding McClaren, Forest owner Nigel Doughty has stood down from his role as Chairman and although he will still be in control of the club, will presumably play a much less significant role in football matters, paving the way for a new man to arrive.

Nottingham Forest are clearly in a state of disarray and will be a brave manager who now decided to step in and attempt to arrest their alarming slump. As for McClaren it is once again totally unknown where his career will go from here.  Unless another Championship club turns to him in a state of desperation and sheer blind panic as the season progresses, I somehow doubt we will see him again in club management during this current campaign.

George Flood

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