Its international week this week so we might as well give bad management an international flavour. We have examined some of the worst managers in Premier League but now its time to turn our attentions to the original poisoned chalice: the England manager’s job. Easily the hardest job in football it seems almost impossible to have any kind of success in the role. Plenty of great managers have taken the job and failed and luckily plenty of less great managers have taken the job and failed too. So with that in mind lets take a look at the worst England managerial reign in recent memory: Steve McClaren.
It is usually forgotten that McClaren actually had a pretty good career before taking the national team job. He had been assistant to Alex Ferguson when United won the treble in 1999 and in his five-year reign at Middlesbrough he was our best ever manager. McClaren guided Boro to the League Cup in 2004, achieved their highest finish in the Premier League (7th) and reached the UEFA Cup Final in 2006. He had been part of the England set-up during Sven’s time as boss and was genuinely regarded as a very good coach. All this was about to change though.
McClaren took over in 2006 at arguably the peak of England’s golden generation. Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Lampard, Gerrard, Beckham and Rooney were all in the team and while Sven’s reign is not the tremendous failure it is portrayed as being (I’d bloody take three quarter-finals in a row at this point) there was a lingering sense that England were underachieving. That meant a lot of pressure was on Stevey Mac when he took over in August 2006, and to make matters worse he was the FA’s second choice behind Luiz Felipe Scolari who rejected the job due to the media circus that accompanies it, something that is hard to argue against. On the plus side for Steve he did beat out competition from the likes of Alan Curbishley so swings and roundabouts. McClaren was just not a popular choice so he made moves to appease the disappointed public. The last ‘good’ England manager was Terry Venables as his assistant which did not go down too badly. He also hired publicist Max Clifford to sort out his PR and given what has happened to Max Clifford subsequently its very much a less said the better scenario.
As soon as McClaren came in he did that thing that all England managers do and drop all the old players. So Sol Campbell (he would for England again), David James (he would play for England again) and most controversially David Beckham (he would play again) were all dropped. England needed a new captain too so John Terry was appointed in a move that would never backfire down the line in any way. So England’s new generation were set to romp to Euro 2008 qualification then right?
The campaign started off swimmingly with a 5-0 home win over Andorra and 1-0 away win over the mighty Macedonia. Eyebrows were then raised in the return leg when England could only manage a 0-0 draw. Yes, thats a 0-0 draw at home to Macedonia. Following this up with a 2-0 away loss to Croatia and a draw with Israel did not help matters. England were fourth in their qualifying group and pressure was really mounting on McClaren. England followed this up by winning their next five qualifiers and while some say the recall of David Beckham caused this I would argue that the calling up of David Nugent, who scored in his only England appearance against Andorra was the real turning point, although that might just be me. A 2-1 loss to Russia but England in a simple enough position: don’t lose against group winners Croatia at home then 2nd place would be achieved and the Three Lions were heading to the Euros. Simple.
The match against Croatia has been covered endlessly but simply put it was a disaster. The 3-2 home loss coupled with a horrific Scott Carson goalkeeping error and McClaren’s infamous ‘wally with a brolly’ moment meant that England did not qualify and Steve was sacked. McClaren’s reign as England manager was an utter joke and while he was under ludicrous media scrutiny he got so many decisions wrong he can only really blame himself. I mean Gareth Southgate can qualify for a tournament, that is how bad Steve McClaren’s time as England manager was.