When the BBC Inside Sport posed the question “Can England win the next World Cup?” in a forty-five minute programme earlier this week, many England fans will have looked and despaired in a frank admission that the answer they were looking for was perhaps a relatively routine no. Should this not have been enough to deepen their recent woe, it is hard to envisage the extent to which it intensified upon hearing Steve McClaren being linked with a return to what many have described as the “hardest job in football”.
His England reign which lead to a failure to qualify for the 2008 European Championship left him a humiliated figure and when he left the country to manage FC Twente, it was much to the delight of many. For it was obvious he was a number two from the very beginning of his short tenure and that he lacked the authoritative nature which is required in the quest for glory.
And although his management in Europe has offered a reprieve from his international sins with a league trophy and a ‘masterful’ Dutch accent with FC Twente leading to a spell in Germany with Wolfsburg surely his return is not warranted by such achievements. Even if the FA believe Capello’s replacement needs to be English, then I would hope the options are not as sparse as that.
Trevor Brooking however said: “Steve has done fantastic to get a title. PSV and Ajax are usually the sides in Holland who do that and now Wolfsburg are picking up,” said Brooking.
“It is a big challenge and it is great for an English coach. Terry Venables went abroad and did well, but Sir Bobby Robson was the one manager who went to three countries and was a massive success.
“We have to try and get more English coaches doing that. Sometimes we are a bit lazy with our language. I am watching other coaches and there are people speaking four or five different languages.
Brooking added: “I think if you asked Steve, he probably wanted that little bit more experience and I think that is why he has gone abroad. Could Steve do the England job again? I am sure if he continues to be a success his name will be in the frame again.”
Brian Barwick described the need for a winner following the catastrophe of the “Wally with the brolly”, someone with a CV which commands respect from both players and fans alike. Yet, after a disaster in Africa there is a call to return to a McClaren type figurehead, a friendlier manager who allows his players more social freedom. Even still, the assumption he is now ready for another try at the England job because of what he has achieved since in other countries is completely incongruous. If he had done well with England and wanted to test himself elsewhere for a few years, fine, but if Capello is deemed a failure, they would only be replacing him with another. His rehabilitation deserves some credit but his ability to manager mediocre sides was never in question and it could also be argued that the Eredivisie is of a weaker standard than the Barclays Premier League in which he managed Middlesbrough.
One thing is for sure, it would take a lot more than the Dutch league title to emasculate the heartache in the rain that night against Croatia and if in the unlikely circumstance that he is appointed again in 2012, the memories would almost certainly come flooding back. That belittling image of McClaren sheltering himself with an umbrella will always live on.