in General

McClaren, and the press’ pound of flesh

Steve McClarren

So what went wrong? Who’s to blame? Why did England screw up so badly when it came to the crunch? Was it because of “the millionaire pre-Madonna’s?” Was it because of McClarren? Was the press to blame for wanting a native English manager above all else, to the point of abursidty? Was it because McClaren often used “power words” to hide his lack of tactical nouse, and couldn’t trasmute the need to win to players properly? Was it the FA’s fault?

I believe its all of the above, and more!

Just watching sport programmes and reading newspaper columns over the weekend and you’ll be left in no doubt that the National game is on its knees, and needs to be reworked.

But who really is to blame, and why? These are my thoughts/opinions.

Steve McClarren

England just plained sucked under McClarren’s reign.

Anybody who is fan knows that McClaren is just a club coach, and not a very good one. The lack of on-the-field tactical nous was really outstanding. McClarren overcomplicated on-the-field tactics where it wasn’t necessary. I distinctly remember a game early in McClaren’s tenure where he used tactics which the Premiership players weren’t used to, or could adapt to.

I never seemed to warm to McClarren. One thing that really frustrated me about McClarren is his constant use of hiding behind Churchillian Statements like “Pride, passion, commitment, attitude” as if they themselves were all that were needed to win a game.

Whilst those traits are important, they don’t mean squat unless you actually know how to win games, and go on to actually win those games.

Another issue I had was his need to say “yes, I’m responsible, but I’m not resigning”. Huh? I’m pretty sure resigning is within the scope of responsibility. Being responsible is what a leader does, not says.

Ultimately the game with Croatia highlighted all the problems with McClaren’s tenure in 90+ minutes, the lack of a creative spark, the inability to grab ahold of the game, or to take the game to Croatia.

The Press.

Yep. I’m blaming the press.

It seems every 5-8 months the press gets bored with the England manager and suddenly starts a campaign to get rid of the manager for who they see as the person to take over.

As I remember it, the press WANTED an English manager to take over Sven. They got their pound of flesh in Sven’s eventual sacking and got what they wanted; now they are saying its got “nuthin’ to do with us, gov’ – we wanted the other fella!” – sorry, I don’t buy it.

The press have also made the job of England manager/coach so tainted, that it has become the proverbial “poisoned chalice” of management; indeed 4 possible replacements for McClarren have dropped their interest in becoming national manager, and who would blame them?

Who’d want to be England manager when the press get on your back (even if you’re winning).

The FA

Its obvious that the FA, a board/committee style management just doesn’t work and needs to be streamlined. You can’t make a decision by committee, it doesn’t work. Additionally the FA are not football people, and look like arm-chair financial backers with no visual presence in the game.

Everyone whines on about how there is no good youth coaching. But the FA, spearheaded by Howard Wilkinson, Trevor Brooking et al really pushed the agenda of youth coaching really to the forefront. The FA mothballed the new national youth training scheme in favor of the new Wembley stadium.

The FA, in my opinion, needs to be slimmed down and replaced with one person at the top – a football man who is voted in by other footballing people and is independent of the game and who’s main interest is the upkeep of the game for all, not for some.

A “root and branch” approach means very little unless something at the top actually happens, but I’m pretty sure it’ll always be the same in the FA, regardless of who is in charge.

The actual footballers

I was watching Piers Morgan on Sky Sports the other day lambasting the players for a poor performance; and to a point he’s dead right – the players are to blame – but it is plain wrong to blame them for being “overpaid pre-Madonna’s”.

Morgan is wrong to suggest that the only reason a person cares is if money is involved, or that inducement is the only way a person will ever be emotionally attached to something, regardless if its football or not.

Yes, money is an issue. Look at Tyson, and some of the best Brazillian footballers – once they made their millions the passion soon disappears. But to say that all money must be removed is just plain wrong – being “hungry for it” is not enough, there must be some reward, otherwise there is no reason to do it.

To move forward, you could easily make all England players get paid on “performance” (ie: a win), if they don’t win, they don’t get anything (or 1/3 what they’d normally get).

Club vs. Country

Club football will always dominate over country. There is nothing that can be done about this.

The only way to resolve Club vs. Country is to introduce a winter break (to reduce injuries) and a break pre-world cup or major tournament.

Bigger breaks between International games and club games will also help too.

Yes, I know that doing this would hurt the game because the Premiership is perhaps the richest in the world – but if you want National success, then the National side must take president when a major tournament is to be held.

Foreign players in the game

Oh dear. Any time England starts to lose a game, its always Johnny Foreigner who gets to blame. Its not their fault they are the finished article. I’m pretty sure pre-Bosman ruling you had people complaining about the 3 foreign players per club rule was stifling English talent.

Answer: Train our kids and offer grants to clubs who employ students (Under 19s) in the UK.

Get ‘football people’ into the FA

I agree with the idea that footballing people should sit around a table and just talk about all the issues (not just limited to the National side) that are really causing issues for all football, including coaching, winter breaks – you name it.

There’s no reason why an independent person can’t chair and report on the issues, I’m pretty sure Brian Mawhinney could do the job (In 2003, he was appointed Chairman of The Football League, and in 2004 oversaw a re-organisation of the league structure, renaming the former Division One as the Football League Championship).


Ultimately McClaren couldn’t do the job and there needs to be a time to reflect on why we failed, where we failed and how we can fix it.

Regardless of who wins the job, or how capable they are – it won’t mean a thing if the foundations of the England setup are built on sand.