Belfast Telegraph

I'll stand by every word on McClaren

By Alan Green

The enormity of the reprieve offered to England last Saturday night coupled with the devastatingly poor attempt at seizing the subsequent opportunity against Croatia could only lead to one outcome - the sacking of Steve McClaren.

"Judge me on results," he said.

We have. Think of all the 'difficult' games England faced during that abysmal qualification campaign: away to Croatia; away to Israel; home and then away to Russia; and, finally, Wednesday night.

Only one of those matches was actually won and I hadn't mentioned the failure to beat Macedonia, surely as significant as any other.

No, McClaren failed when he was given that wholly unexpected second chance.

His team lost at home against opposition that had nothing to play for.

The coach is irretrievably lost.

I spoke to my father in Belfast early last week and he wondered, I hope only mischievously, whether I now regretted my critique of the England boss in this column last weekend.

Don't I look a bit silly? No, I regretted not a single word.

McClaren was NEVER up to the job.

Returning home through Manchester Airport on Thursday morning, a stranger approached me. "Well, Mr. Green, what did you make of that?"

"Awful," I replied, "and England got exactly what they deserved."

"It doesn't help, " he said, "when you leave your best players on the bench."

And that's where I begged to differ. You see, I understood why McClaren plumped for Scott Carson in goal rather than Paul Robinson.

The confidence of the Spurs keeper is clearly shot to pieces - though, clearly, it's even worse now.

Where I question the coach is in his failure to blood Carson in a competitive fixture much earlier.

To thrust a 22 year-old into such trying circumstances was definitely taking a gamble but, like McClaren, I was surprised, and England were badly shaken, when Carson made such a significant error so early on. That was just very unfortunate.

I think though my airport questioner was talking more of David Beckham.

I have never understood why he was ever considered a world-class player, never mind so many people thinking that he still is.

Yes, I accept, he delivered an exquisite cross for Peter Crouch to score and bring England fresh, but quickly extinguished, hope.

However, ONE decent cross in 45 minutes doesn't do it for me.

This isn't American football where you can bring on an amazing quarter-back from the sidelines and then send him back there until he's needed again.

One caller to '6-0-6', referring to the former skipper, highlighted how, when a Beckham free-kick was deflected behind for a corner, Beckham " rushed" to take it. "That's what we needed, passion." - what garbage!

No, what England needed against Croatia was technique remotely rivalling their opponents' and direction from a coach who knew what he was doing.

That they didn't have the former is part of a wider problem.

The absence of the latter is something the FA has belatedly done something about.

It seems that Chief Executive Brian Barwick will lead the "root and branch review" into the whole England senior set-up.

That hardly fills you with confidence knowing that he should have followed McClaren out the door!

Pride goes before a fall at Derby County

I head for Pride Park tonight amidst rumours that Derby boss Billy Davies is two games from the sack.

Unless Davies' side beat Chelsea or win at Sunderland next Saturday, equally unlikely, he's gone.

How utterly ridiculous!

That Davies took County up in the first place was a gross over-achievement.

It was obvious to anyone with a brain that they couldn't survive in the Premier League with that playing staff.

Derby should have thanked their lucky stars for the financial windfall that followed along with the substantial parachute payments that accompany the inevitable relegation they'll face next year.

However, it appears the new chairman Adam Pearson lives in some sort of dreamland thinking a) he can attract a manager better able to cope in the circumstances and b) some far eastern syndicate have money to invest in the club.

Perhaps Carson Yeung? I know . . . you have to laugh.

Shoe is on the other foot at Birmingham

Steve Bruce's switch from St Andrews to the JJB Stadium - assuming the Midlands financial dispute is resolved - has me revising my start of season forecasts.

Can we now make it Birmingham City to be relegated rather than Wigan Athletic?

It's not that Bruce is an 'outstanding' manager but he's a very good one and certainly fully equipped with the knowledge necessary for a dogfight at the bottom of the Premier League.

Aided by the imminent return from injury of Emile Heskey - a player Bruce was bitterly disappointed to lose from Birmingham - and a likely £15 million budget to spend in the January transfer window, I can see Wigan getting clear of trouble.

Unlike Birmingham. The proposed takeover by the Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung seems to be falling apart at the seams and was largely responsible for Bruce's departure.

Now, in quick time, Martin Jol, Paul Jewell and Marcello Lippi (weren't they taking the mick even asking the question?) have all intimated they're not interested in the job. Who, in their right mind, would be?

Belfast Telegraph


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