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Steve McClaren ready to renew acquaintances with Slaven Bilic

Published 11/09/2015

Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren is preparing to lock horns with England nemesis Slaven Bilic
Newcastle head coach Steve McClaren is preparing to lock horns with England nemesis Slaven Bilic

Steve McClaren will renew acquaintances with Slaven Bilic on the pitch on Monday evening confident he is a better manager for his experience the last time they met.

The Newcastle head coach will go into battle with his West Ham counterpart in the Barclays Premier League almost eight years after they locked horns as international managers when Bilic's Croatia prevented McClaren's England from reaching the Euro 2008 finals on an infamous night at Wembley.

That rain-soaked evening in November 2007, McClaren, who was later dubbed "the wally with the brolly", could only look on as his side slipped to a 3-2 home defeat which ultimately cost him his job.

However, he has since rebuilt his career, principally in Holland, where he guided FC Twente to the Eredivisie title, and believes he is a better manager for what he went through with England.

Asked if that Croatia game had changed him, he said: "I hope so, otherwise I would be in trouble. But yes, I think most definitely.

"I think we all do, otherwise we have just wasted nearly 10 years of experience doing nothing and not improving, so hopefully, I think so.

"He has as well. He has good experience now. It's difficult coming from a player, the national team and then club, and I think he's done very well.

"But as I say, I have met him. He's a perfect gentleman and the passion that he shows for his teams, his football, he's taken that to West Ham and is making them a very good team."

It will not be the first time the two men have met since their fateful encounter at Wembley with the pair having come across each other when Bilic, still in charge of his national team, visited McClaren's Wolfsburg to run the rule over striker Mario Mandzukic.

The Englishman said with a smile: "He came over and that was kind of kiss and make-up, and he's been very good ever since to me. We have come to know each other and respect each other.

"I know a lot of Croatian players, I have had them, and he is typically Croatian a gentleman, passionate about his football and creating wherever he goes very good teams."

Bilic has remarked this week that he may have got the better of McClaren in 2007, but got wet at the same time.

The Magpies head coach said: "I hope it stays sunny."

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