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Page last updated at 05:53 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 06:53 UK

McClaren haunted by England failure

World Cup qualifier: England v Croatia
Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Date: Wednesday, 9 September KO: 2000 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 live and the BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website. Live on ITV1

By Jonathan Pearce
Match of the Day commentator

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Interview - Steve McClaren

Mention of the visit of Croatia to Wembley on Wednesday brings back a flicker of pain to the eyes of one former England manager.

Steve McClaren has "moved on". It is a phrase he kept using in our chat in the swish new home dressing room at FC Twente's rapidly expanding De Grolsch Veste Stadium.

These are exciting days for the former England coach, who has clearly emancipated himself from the mental slavery that tortured his every move as the "Wally with the Brolly".

But it is interesting that his first point is to state clearly that he has not forgotten the misery of failing to take England to Euro 2008.

Every day his mind goes back to that forlorn rainy night at Wembley in November 2007 and the mistakes made in the 3-2 defeat by Croatia that ended his reign.

Steve McClaren
McClaren stands by his decisions on the fateful night at Wembley

"It could have been one of the biggest moments of my career but it ended up being one of the lowest," explained McClaren.

"There is not a day goes by that some aspect of the experience with England doesn't come flashing back to mind and teaching me a lesson."

He still sticks by his decision to hand a competitive debut to Scott Carson, who had an awful game, and bemoans the absence of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Wayne Rooney that night.

When asked whether he had forgiven and forgotten the public lampooning of his derisory decision to carry an umbrella on the touchline, he means to reply with a rhetorical question but in a Freudian slip said: "I won't forgive or forget."

New England coach Fabio Capello will succeed, he points out, if he can keep his big players fit. So a bitter feeling of "if only" still lurks. He has not quite let go, for all the insistence that he has moved on.

"The 18 months I was in charge we were gaining experience for the future - how to play, how win, how to approach games, it was a difficult period and we never quite got that together, although we were searching for it," added McClaren.

The England experience didn't quite kill me and hopefully it made me stronger

Steve McClaren

"I'm pleased now when I look at the squad, when I see the players maturing into more experienced pros, with a big game mentality, handling the situation home and away.

"They're playing the way I always said they are capable of and I still believe they are capable of winning a tournament."

McClaren has experienced life as public enemy number one - just as so many other fallen England managers have done in the past.

Even Sir Bobby Robson was heavily castigated at the start of the World Cup in 1990.

"I knew the enormity of the job because I'd been involved with Sven-Goran Eriksson for many years.

"I knew what it meant to the fans and I felt as though I had let down a nation because we didn't qualify. The responsibility was mine and mine alone. I had to take that, it wasn't pleasant and I don't want to have that again.

"That experience didn't quite kill me and hopefully made me stronger."

Steve McClaren
McClaren is looking to rebuild his career at FC Twente

McClaren is following Sir Bobby's footsteps in trying to restart his career in the Netherlands. After the Football Association inexplicably refused to give our most successful national coach since 1966 a new contract in 1990, he was seized by "a sense of adventure" at PSV Eindhoven.

Instilling new discipline into an infamously unruly squad, he won back-to-back titles and became one of the most sought after managers in the world.

McClaren is proud of what he is achieving as manager of FC Twente. Last season they finished runners up in the Dutch league for only the second time. They were also beaten 7-6 on penalties by Heerenveen in the cup final.

For the first time in 30 years they were in a European competition after Christmas, reaching the last 32 of the Uefa Cup.

This season only an injury-time Feyenoord penalty in last week's 1-1 draw stopped the Enschede club topping the table and they led from the second minute to the 95th in their Champions League third qualifying round, second leg against Sporting Lisbon when the Portuguese club scored a heartbreaking away goal.

Chairman Joop Munsterman ambitiously targets regular Champions League football. Building work will increase the stadium capacity to 34,000 next year and McClaren is caught up in the fervour of it all.

The fans sing his name with gusto. He is well liked. Totally immersing himself in local culture has probably helped. He has resisted the temptation of bringing in English coaches and works with former Feyenoord Uefa Cup winner Kees Van Wonderen.

606: DEBATE

None of this will win McClaren over to disgruntled England fans, who were let down by the Euro qualifying failure. They will still distrust his media image. They will giggle at the Dutch inflection in his accent these days and his expansive continental style hand gestures. They will not forget or forgive easily, just as he won't.

Many people will still find it difficult to warm to the man but it is no surprise that he is protective and quite closed to outsiders. Being a national figure of fun hurt badly.

Privately, he may regret the timing of his England appointment and that he should not have been the man that followed Sven. Publicly, he is not allowing that to ruin his life. Professionally, he is trying to move on.

Success at club level will exorcise the old ghosts and he has the coaching ability to bring that success.



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see also
McClaren's new charges
13 Aug 08 |  Europe
McClaren relishes Dutch challenge
24 Jun 08 |  Europe
Dutch side name McClaren as boss
20 Jun 08 |  Europe
Sacked McClaren admits 'failure'
22 Nov 07 |  Internationals


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