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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 05:56 GMT 06:56 UK
Why McClaren fell out with the media
By Simon Austin

Max Clifford and Steve McClaren
Clifford worked with McClaren for three months

It is hard to believe it's only eight months since Steve McClaren gave a smiling, confident performance in his first news conference as England coach.

The former Middlesbrough manager seemed to relish being in the media spotlight as he announced his squad to face Greece in August.

He was unrecognisable from the shattered and emotional man who addressed the press in the bowels of Barcelona's Olympic Stadium after Wednesday's 3-0 win over Andorra.

"Gentlemen, you can write whatever you want to write, because that's all I'm going to say," McClaren said, before walking out less than two minutes into his news conference.

606: DEBATE
SB

How have McClaren's relations with the press deteriorated so quickly? And can they be patched up now?

PR guru Max Clifford, who worked with the England coach for three months before severing ties in December, gives his expert views.

QUESTION: DO PUBLIC RELATIONS MATTER?

Everyone knows the England manager lives or dies by results, but PR has a big effect.

Steve has been in a vicious circle. Bad press coverage has influenced the fans, that has put pressure on him and in turn performances have been inhibited further.

Look at Wednesday's game as an example - the England supporters had been stoked up by the papers and were booing Steve from almost the start.

If the media turn on you, it's added pressure. That's why political parties, the Royals, film stars, you name it, all rely on PR. I explained to Steve at the start that Middlesbrough is one thing, the England job is another.

It's second only to the job of Prime Minister in terms of media pressure and you need as much protection as possible. Sadly he hasn't had that.

Q: WHY HAVE THE PRESS TURNED ON McCLAREN?

The obvious reason is that things haven't gone well in terms of the team and its performance for a few months.

But you can still make the best of a bad situation through PR. Instead, the way things have been handled by the Football Association has made the worst of a bad situation.

You make the best of things by building good relationships with journalists. Then they will want you to succeed because you are good for them. Sports journalists have to get results as well.

The press will be looking to be as sympathetic as they can because it's in their interests to do that.

If Steve McClaren gives you contact and that's part of your success, then you will think twice before you stitch him up.

It's not rocket science, but the FA don't realise it. If he had a better relationship with the media, they would be more understanding and attack the players more than Steve.

Q: WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE?

I wanted to arrange for Steve to have dinner with the sports editors on all the national newspapers and I would have fed journalists little tit-bits of information all the time. I would have said 'this is for you, this is for you'.

Terry Venables
Venables writes a weekly newspaper column
That would have enabled us to build up some close relationships.

For example, I worked with Mohammed Al Fayed and we built good relationships with journalists. It meant he got the best press he's ever had and when Fulham were promoted, six national newspaper editors attended the party at Harrods.

Another thing I insisted on when I worked with Steve was that his assistant, Terry Venables, stop doing his column for the News of the World.

You must not allow favourites, otherwise it rubs people up the wrong way. But he has been allowed to carry on with it.

The secret is to develop relationships, then you can influence things far more than by simply blocking the press, which is what has happened.

Q: WHY DID YOU SEVER TIES WITH McCLAREN?

It was a waste of time, because I wasn't allowed to do what I wanted to do. To use a football analogy, I want to be in the centre of midfield, influencing things, yet I wasn't even on the subs bench.

I'm not the type of person who will just take the money and not do anything. It's a shame, because it would have been a wonderful chance.

The FA doesn't understand the press, they think it's 'them and us' and have a siege mentality.

Steve should have been stronger and insisted on continuing to work with me.

Q: CAN THINGS BE IMPROVED?

I really think it's too late in the game now. You need to begin your PR strategy at the start of the game and not halfway through the second half.

Steve is under siege and has not built the relationships he needs to with sports journalists and editors. They have nothing to lose by criticising him and a lot of the things that have happened have been understandable.

One thing he can do is to be open, honest and sincere. At the moment, his interviews and press conferences seem very contrived.

Steve looked like a condemned prisoner going to his cell at the press conference after the game on Wednesday. Earlier in the week he said Saturday's performance had been good, and that made him lose credibility.

The press and the public would have more respect and sympathy for him if he was genuine. He is coming across more and more defensive and looks so anxious when he's in front of the press.

But the answer was to build relationships at the start.

I haven't heard a word from Steve, other than a text he sent me to wish me a happy Christmas. I wish him well but we couldn't work together again because I know it can't work.



SEE ALSO
FA boss backs under-fire McClaren
29 Mar 07 |  Internationals
McClaren appeals to England fans
29 Mar 07 |  Internationals
Andorra 0-3 England
28 Mar 07 |  Internationals
BBC pundits on England
28 Mar 07 |  Internationals
FA denies reports over McClaren
27 Mar 07 |  Internationals
Clifford to guide McClaren
26 Jul 06 |  Internationals
McClaren ready for England task
01 Aug 06 |  Internationals
McClaren's dream debut
17 Aug 06 |  Internationals


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