Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
watch listen BBC Sport BBC Sport
Low graphics|Help
Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 August 2006, 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK
McClaren under instant pressure
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Steve McClaren's England era starts with the new coach having hands-on experience of the problems he must confront after Sven-Goran Eriksson ended his reign in failure.

McClaren was almost absolved from blame for England's poor 2006 World Cup finals showing by some obliging apologists - but he does not start his new career covered in glory.

The former Middlesbrough man was the visible face of England's dug-out, standing on the touchline with his trademark notes and pen, as well as his trademark wave urging England forward.

Changing of the guard: Lennon is likely to replace Beckham
Paul Robinson, Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, Owen Hargreaves.

And make no mistake, despite what his supporters would have you believe, his hand was very much on the body of England's World Cup ambitions.

McClaren was a key coaching figure, and to suggest Eriksson ignored all his advice is stretching reality to breaking point.

Now he must do the job himself - and there will be no hiding place for a man already under pressure because he was part of England's downfall in Germany.

He is, by association with Eriksson, damaged goods and the lack of excitement surrounding his arrival means he will not be afforded the traditional honeymoon period.

McClaren needs results quickly because his was an appointment that was hardly well-received by the public, especially as first choice Luiz Felipe Scolari delivered another "here's what you could have won" moment when his limited Portugal side ousted England.

Fortunately for McClaren, England have been gifted a group from the heavens in Euro 2008.

If he fails to lead them into the tournament against Andorra, Croatia, Estonia, FYR Macedonia, Israel and Russia then he will not survive his four-year contract.

David Beckham has at least saved McClaren the thorny job of removing him from the captaincy, something he would surely have done after the Real Madrid star's lame World Cup performances.

McClaren's appointment of a new captain is his first big decision.

Will he go for what appears to be the tabloid choice of John Terry - a superb candidate it should be said - or will he plump for Steven Gerrard?

If he was to cast off his cloak of conservatism, he should go for Gerrard, who has been an inspirational leader of a Liverpool team containing less natural talent than Chelsea, almost single-handedly inspiring them to Champions League and FA Cup glory.

McClaren must also tackle the Beckham sub-plot. Should he actually keep his place in the team at the age of 31?

He looked a spent force for much of his time in Germany, and England have talent in the wings in the shape of Aaron Lennon and the forgotten Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Beckham is a proud man and he will not sacrifice his place lightly, but McClaren must surely start exploring his options.

The one-time icon of England will not be around for the 2010 World Cup, and his form in Germany suggests he is a serious doubt for the European Championship in 2008.

Gary Neville, Wayne Bridge, Jamie Carragher, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Carrick, David Beckham, Stewart Downing, Peter Crouch, Theo Walcott. Michael Owen.
Gary Neville is also 31, but he is still England's best right-back and his influence on the squad and his natural leadership means he should stay for now.

But he may not be around for the 2008 European Championship finals and is a non-starter for the next World Cup, so McClaren must also seek alternatives there.

McClaren should also send 17-year-old Theo Walcott back to school with Arsenal.

Walcott's presence in Germany was nothing short of farcical and became a rich source of humour and sarcasm by journey's end.

Wayne Rooney will be the fulcrum of England's attacking efforts, but McClaren must solve the issue of who plays with him when he returns from a two-match ban.

Michael Owen can be forgotten for most of next season, so McClaren will surely put Jermain Defoe back on the radar.

Peter Crouch was a relative success in Germany, but if McClaren is bold, he will give a debut to West Ham's Dean Ashton.

Everton new boy Andrew Johnson and Charlton's Darren Bent may also stake their claims to the new coach.

England are well served in defence, but more competition is needed for goalkeeper Paul Robinson, whose World Cup was a mixed bag.

If Chris Kirkland can stay fit for three games he might get his chance with Norwich's Robert Green out for months.

England's wafer-thin resources were exposed by the fact that the erratic and 35-year-old David James was Robinson's deputy, followed by Scott Carson, who is surplus at Liverpool and was farmed out to Sheffield Wednesday last season.

McClaren's greatest task of all is to solve a puzzle that escaped Eriksson until the very end.

How to make England's gifted midfield work - and decide whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together?

Gerrard was far more impressive than Lampard in Germany, and McClaren must decide if the Chelsea man should make way for Owen Hargreaves, who was an unqualified World Cup success.

Hargreaves could be the man to finally release Gerrard from the shackles he is forced to wear for England and become the driving force he is at Anfield.

Dare McClaren drop Lampard to accommodate Hargreaves and Gerrard?

He should at least consider it because England's midfield has failed to function too often.

Sol Campbell, David James, Scott Carson.
Lampard will be 32 at the next World Cup, so the European Championship may be his last big tournament.

So what else will McClaren bring to the table?

Well, he is set to bring in Terry Venables for a start as his assistant, an appointment that may get sceptics from the media and supporters onside quickly.

Alan Shearer has rejected the chance to join McClaren to remain as a BBC pundit, a blow to a coach who might have been able to shield the apathy surrounding his own appointment by bringing a national sporting icon on board.

But McClaren must be his own man. If he attempts to hide behind trophy appointments to his coaching staff he will fail.

England's backroom staff had a somewhat cobwebbed look in Germany, with the familiar old faces such as Sammy Lee and Ray Clemence still on parade.

It needs freshening up, especially as McClaren has been a familiar face to England's players for five years. Fresh voices must be heard.

McClaren must be bold, not the cautious figure who told Middlesbrough's players to run the ball into the corner to preserve a 0-0 draw at home to Liverpool on the opening day of last season.

The jury is very much out on McClaren, and the sense is that unless he makes a fast start he will have the shortest of honeymoon periods, even by England standards.

McClaren has talked a good game so far - now he must prove he is the right man for the job and not someone who got lucky at the perfect time.

Rock solid Steve
01 Aug 06 |  Internationals
Shearer rejects role with England
30 Jul 06 |  Internationals
England tipped to mount recovery
02 Jul 06 |  England
Beckham quits as England captain
02 Jul 06 |  England
Right time to go
02 Jul 06 |  England
Fans back Beckham quit decision
02 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Beckham's England captaincy in photos
02 Jul 06 |  Photo Galleries
England beaten on penalties again
01 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Daily and weekly e-mails | Mobiles | Desktop Tools | News Feeds | Interactive Television | Downloads
Sport Homepage | Football | Cricket | Rugby Union | Rugby League | Tennis | Golf | Motorsport | Boxing | Athletics | Snooker | Horse Racing | Cycling | Disability Sport | Olympics 2012 | Other Sport...

Video and Audio | Scores & Fixtures | Have Your Say | TV/Radio Schedule

Fun and Games | Question of Sport | Photo Galleries

Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales

Help | Privacy & Cookies Policy | News sources | About the BBC | Contact us