At least in terms of football it could be said that Holland is a kind of utopia. Relying on a scarcely believable infrastructure, which see’s most village sides enjoying facilities that could not be envisaged any lower than the Blue Square Premier League, they continue to produce players of prodigious talent with a regularity that belies their size. It is then, perhaps, fitting that a man who failed in the most English of contexts has succeeded in such an alien landscape.
Steve McClaren will no doubt be enjoying his foreign crusade now. Effectively exiled, by a media keen to see him destroyed as well as derided for his performance as England manager, he was perceived to have washed up at that well know footballing backwater; Holland. Now, just under a week after winning the Eredivisie in his second year with FC Twente, he is being courted by Wolfsburg and West Ham in what could be a defiant return to a country in which he forged his dubious reputation.
We shouldn’t forget the scale of McClaren’s achievement. With an all Dutch coaching staff, and whilst effectively commuting to Holland from his Yorkshire home, he has delivered a league title to a Club that almost ceased to exist after the 2002-3 season. In the process he has usurped the Dutch football establishment, making Twente just the fifth club to win the league since 1990. Many will point to supposed weakness of the Dutch league as proof of the invalidity of McClaren’s success; would those same critics so easily cast aside Bobby Robson’s stint with PSV, in which he won the title twice, as the product of anything other than his talent?
As McClaren witnessed his side capitulate to a defeat against Croatia which saw them miss out on qualification, signalling the end of his 18 match tenure as England coach, it seemed inconceivable that his career would be defined by any other barometer than that of cataclysmic international failure. Three years on, and with many English manager’s of his age and experience languishing in Premiership mediocrity, perhaps it is McClaren who will look back at the dejected figure, with umbrella in hand, stood on a sodden Wembley touchline and maybe, just maybe, he will laugh.
Written By Jake Farrell