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Page last updated at 11:59 GMT, Wednesday, 26 July 2006 12:59 UK

Clifford to guide McClaren

By Simon Austin

Sven-Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren
McClaren was Eriksson's assistant for six years

New England manager Steve McClaren is to hire Max Clifford as a personal adviser, BBC Sport understands.

McClaren hopes the public relations guru can help him to avoid the gaffes that blighted the reign of his predecessor, Sven-Goran Eriksson.

But the news is sure to cause consternation at the Football Association, as Clifford has been a thorn in their side in the past.

He advised former FA secretary Faria Alam when she revealed details of affairs with Eriksson and then-chief executive Mark Palios to tabloid newspapers.

Clifford has already worked successfully with McClaren, helping him to manage news of an extra-marital affair back in May.

Now the link-up has become permanent and Clifford has clear ideas about how McClaren should approach his media strategy:


Instead of putting the barricades up, Clifford says McClaren must develop good relationships with journalists.

"It's important to be as helpful as possible - you have to know the pressure that journalists are under," he told BBC Sport.

"I've been in the industry for the last 40 years, working with people like The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali and Simon Cowell, and I do my best to play the game by them (journalists).

"You have to be open and approachable and build relationships.

"One of the first things Steve needs to do is sit down and have lengthy conversations with members of the media and get to know them."


Following England's World Cup defeat by Portugal, there were reports that McClaren had given stories to a select group of favoured journalists.

Max Clifford
Clifford says it's unwise to have favoured journalists
Clifford says this is untrue and that it would be an unwise policy.

"What Steve wants to do is build as wide a relationship as he can," Clifford says.

"He doesn't have an 'inner circle' of favoured journalists - it doesn't exist.

"It's important that you always tell it as it is and that there are no special favours. You treat as you find."


A big problem for McClaren is that he's closely associated with Eriksson, having been his assistant for six years.

The Swede's tenure is now widely regarded as a failure, so Clifford says it's important that McClaren emphasises his will be a new regime.

"At the end of the day, Steve wasn't running or selecting the team when Sven was manager," Clifford says.

"Obviously it's going to be important to make it very clear that, although he was his right-hand man, it was Sven who made the decisions, picked the team and dictated the tactics.

"In a matter of time that will come across. He doesn't need to hammer it home, but I do think he needs to make it very clear that they did things Sven's way and now they're going to do things Steve's way."


The flip side of having been Eriksson's assistant is that McClaren has intimate experience of the England set-up.

No-one's been closer to the centre of the system than Steve

Max Clifford
"The big advantage Steve's got is that he's had a three or four-year dress rehearsal for the job," Clifford says.

"No-one's been closer to the centre of the system. He's able to ascertain what worked, what didn't work and which players did what.

"From that perspective he's had a wonderful opportunity to know exactly what needs to be done and to improve on what's happened."


Charismatic is not an adjective that's often been used to describe McClaren, whereas dour and uninspiring are.

Clifford says the problem is that the media and public know little about the 45-year-old's personality and that this needs to change.

"I've only met him briefly, but found him very warm, friendly, affable and down to earth," he says.

"These are qualities I hope and believe will endear him to people."


Clifford says one of Eriksson's biggest problems was that he didn't understand that an England manager is judged on every aspect of his life.

Sven-Goran Eriksson
Eriksson was surprised by the media attention that was focussed on him
"He thought all he had to do was manage the England football team successfully, but he quickly found out that was only part of it," says Clifford, who advised FA secretary Faria Alam after news of her affair with Eriksson and FA chief executive Mark Palios became public.

"He learnt from conversations I had with him, but it was never something that came easily to him.

"I think it's frightened people off the job and, admittedly, dealing with the media is like walking through a minefield.

"I'll do my best to make it as easy for Steve as possible."

Clifford believes that, other than the prime minister, the England manager has the highest-profile job in the country.

But he says this does not mean it's impossible to stay onside with the media.

"Although the attention is massive, I'd say I've had 50 more difficult PR cases to deal with," he says.

"I represented OJ Simpson when he was accused of murder, which was certainly a bit tougher."

see also
The affair that rocked the FA
09 Sep 05 |  UK News
Eriksson says players forgive him
16 Jan 06 |  Internationals
Eriksson drops Chelsea hint
07 Feb 04 |  Chelsea
Chelsea deny Eriksson link
01 Dec 03 |  Chelsea

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