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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Is the future bright for England?
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Germany

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 World Cup showing by some 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.

2008 CERTAINTIES
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 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.

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 performances here.

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

He has 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.

EURO 2008 POSSIBLES
Gary Neville, Wayne Bridge, Jamie Carragher, Jermaine Jenas, Michael Carrick, David Beckham, Stewart Downing, Peter Crouch, Theo Walcott.
Gary Neville is also 31 and another question McClaren must answer, 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 is unlikely to be around for the European Championship and is a non-starter for the next World Cup, so McClaren must also seek alternatives there.

McClaren must also break the bad news to Sol Campbell that his long England career is over.

Campbell is creaking, as his performance against Sweden proved, and at 32 in September his time on this stage has expired.

England have centre-halves in waiting such as Michael Dawson, while Jamie Carragher would have played ahead of Campbell as replacement for suspended John Terry had they progressed into the semi-final.

McClaren must 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.

Michael Owen can be forgotten for most of next season, so McClaren must 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 Frank Lampard and Steven 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.

EURO 2008 NON-STARTERS
Sol Campbell, David James, Scott Carson, Michael Owen.
Lampard will be 32 at the next World Cup, so the European Championship may be his last big tournament.

McClaren's first job is to choose a new captain - my choice would be Gerrard but it appears John Terry will get the nod.

So what else will McClaren bring to the table?

Well, he may bring Terry Venables and Alan Shearer for a start, two appointments that may get sceptics from the media and supporters onside quickly.

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.

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.



SEE ALSO
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
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England beaten on penalties again
01 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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