Steve McClaren: The Epitome of English Mediocrity

steve-mcclaren-Wolfsburg-007Steve McClaren. The Wally with a brolly. There have been a lot of great Englishmen in football such as Brian Clough who won two back to back European trophies and three European titles with Nottingham Forest to Sir Bobby Robson, the man who put the initial building blocks at both Newcastle United and Barcelona as well as leading England to a bittersweet 4th place finish at Italia 90, their best at a world cup since Sir Alf Ramsey, another Englishmen, led England to their first and only world cup triumph on home soil. These examples of successful English managers are unfortunately mere diamonds in the dirt, as for every Bobby Robson, there are 100 Ian Holloways. However, the worst of the lot in my opinion is Steve McClaren. The newly appointed Newcastle manager has had a plethora of chances to try to amend his reputation after his England nightmare caused him but has failed pretty much every time, seemingly worsening his already damaged public image. Newly appointed as Newcastle United manager, the Magpies could be his last chance for any sort of salvation and any shed of respect for the Yorkshireman.

McClaren’s managerial career started as an assistant coach at Derby County in 1995 to 1999 where he then become as assistant coach at Manchester United, where he was essentially Fergie’s right hand man and helped the team achieve an unprecedented treble, the three trophies consisting of the Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and UEFA Champions League. McClaren remained at his post until 2001, meaning he won a league title for every season in which he was at the club. During this period, he had built up a reputation of being one of the most innovative and tactically astute coaches around, as he used modern and niche techniques such as video analysis, something that wasn’t widely used in football in the early 90’s and early 00’s.  Upon realising he was not going to replace Sir Alex at United, he soon looked for his first job as a head coach, and become Middlesbrough’s manager in 2001 as he made the first step into the big bad world of football management. He had started well at the North East club, finishing 12th in his 1st season and 11th in his 2nd season and had cemented the club as a mid-table Premier League side, making Riverside Stadium a hard away trip for every team. The following season was Steve’s breakout season as a manager as he won the league cup,via a 2-1 win against Bolton at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, meaning they qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in the club’s history, as well as winning the club’s first ever major honour. The following season they got a very respectable round of 16 finish in the UFEA Cup and also finishing 7th in the league, ensuring at least another season in European competition. McClaren was also able to attract higher calibre players such as Michael Reiziger from Barcelona and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from league rival Chelsea. In his last season at the club, he guided Middlesbrough to the UEFA cup final but lost the final 4-0 to La Liga outfit Sevilla.

After leaving Middlesbrough, he was appointed as Sven-Goran Eriksson’s successor for the England national team following the Swede’s departure in 2006 after the Germany world cup. Steve was given the job of getting England over the line to qualify for the upcoming European championship finals in 2008. His first act of duty was to replace David Beckham with a new skipper and promoted Chelsea centre-half John Terry to captain. England’s Euro campaign started well, with two wins on the bounce then fell upon hard times and poor form, resulting England to drop down to fourth in the table by April of 2007. As a consequence of this, McClaren recalled golden boy David Beckham back into the England set-up and the Three Lions secured 4 wins in 6 games which boosted morale and their chance to qualify before suffering a shock defeat at the hands of the Russians, meaning England depended on other results in the group, England would have to win against Croatia to qualify as the 2nd placed team in the group. Come the final whistle against Croatia at Wembley, England had lost 3-2. England weren’t going to the European Championship finals for the first time in nearly 25 years and McClaren is one of only two England managers who’ve failed to take England to a major competition. A pretty damning stat isn’t it? The following day after the nightmare game at Wembley, McClaren was relieved of his England duties and was criticised heavily in the English press and by the England media.

Steve McClaren

Steve McClaren in despair as he watches England lose 3-2 to Croatia, and was dubbed ‘the Wally with a brolly.’

After the way the English press hounded and hassled him following the England fiasco, McClaren thought it best to try management in a different European country and do what Englishmen rarely do these days; Go abroad. He went to FC Twente, in Holland. McClaren achieved success in his short stay in Holland, finishing 2nd in the league, going to the final of the Dutch Cup and to the round of 32 in Europe. In his second season one upped last season, as he won the Eredivisie title, becoming the first Englishman to guide a top-flight team to a league title since Sir Bobby Robson, who had done so with FC Porto in 1996. Despite the title win and being crowned as the champions of Holland, he sought pastures new and his European journey took him to Germany, where he became the manager of Bundesliga side Wolfsburg. His stay in northwest Germany was short-lived as he was sacked by the Bundesliga outfit, just a mere 9 months after being appointed. After his gloom in Germany he went to Nottingham Forest, where he suffered an even more torrid time, getting just 8 points in the first 10 league games, McClaren resigned from his post. After a short stint as a QPR coach with Harry Redknapp, he was announced as Derby County’s new manager, a team that was hotly tipped to getting promotion to the promised land, the Barclays Premier League. In his first season at Derby, he guided them to a 3rd place finish, getting them into the play-offs and got to the final, where they were cruelly and somewhat undeservedly lost 1-0 to a 90th minute Bobby Zamora winner to deny McClaren’s men Premier League status. Next season Derby looked bang on for automatic promotion as by the 24th of February, Derby were top of the Championship but then they just imploded and combusted with no apparent season, winning just 2 of their remaining 13 league game fixtures. On the last day of the season Derby only needed a draw at home against Reading to ensure at least a play-off position, they were beat 3-0. Somewhat reminiscent of the cold Wembley night all those years ago, just highlighted McClaren’s way of bottling it when push comes to shove, to put it harshly.

An infographic showing McClaren's managerial statistics.

An infographic showing McClaren’s managerial statistics.

Now at Tyneside, will he be a success? Talking upon history and average, he should be a success at Newcastle, even if he is under the mindless control of Mike Ashley, who probably saw McClaren as the easiest ‘Yes Man’ he could acquire, After the diabolical times Newcastle fans have recently been put though, they deserve some good memories and maybe just a derby win against Sunderland to help appease the mass following of the Toon Army. Steve McClaren should have been one of the best English managers the country’s ever produced, yet like many other figures in the English game, he could never seem to catch a break and become a great. Instead, he will forever been known as the Wally with a brolly.


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