Steve McClaren - England Manager Prepares For Next Loss
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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Steve McClaren - England Manager Prepares For Next Loss

england-national-team-ball-umbro-black.jpgJust as he did before England's 1-0 friendly loss to Spain, Steve McClaren has already started the process of lowering expectations ahead of March's crucial Euro Qualifier in Israel.

Earlier this week, the England manager errantly stated, "Qualifications are never decided in March, they are always decided in November."

In fact, qualifications are not decided in November, but they are decided over many months, during a series of matches with an equal amount of points available for each match. It's surprising this simple equation seems lost on McClaren.

Every match matters, no matter how often McClaren makes claims to the contrary.

And friendlies, if used properly, can be a gauge of how well the team is progressing, as well as being accurate measures of pride, a quality McClaren definitely seems to be lacking while attempting to "sneak" wins.

Of course all of this is presuming McClaren wasn't speaking to this past November when the English FA decided to keep him on, despite a pitiful October that saw once-mighty England draw Macedonia, and lose outright to Croatia.

If he was referring to that November, then it is entirely possible that England's qualifying hopes were in fact decided during that month.

But to truly interpret McClaren properly, it helps to go back to early February. Just ahead of England's friendly with Spain, McClaren made clear the unimportance of that match by stating, "I don't see it as make or break for me."

With his strategies on the pitch failing miserably, the off-pitch strategy of downplaying losses before they happen certainly appears to be paying huge dividends. After a horrible performance against Spain, there was not even the slightest of rumblings from the FA that McClaren might be in trouble.

Moreover, at this point, it appears that even a loss in Israel next month might not bring McClaren's reign to an end.

Interestingly, McClaren's predecessor, Sven Goran-Eriksson was afforded no such luxury as the Swede found himself on the rack at all times, even when qualifying relatively easily.

Credit to McClaren and the FA, it certainly is a new-look England. An excuse-making, underachieving, whinging England, whose hierarchy blames everyone but themselves.

Assistant manager Terry Venables was recently quoted by the Guardian as saying, "The academy system hasn't borne fruit. There are a lot of players coming from around the world which makes it difficult for local boys."

Whether or not Venables considers Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney academy-fruit is unclear.

But even if Venables statement were valid, with the current England regime, if the English Premier League were all home-grown, it would surely be safe to assume that the complaint would then be that "our boys don't have enough experience abroad."

Inexplicable inclusions of average Premier League players over proven and in-form players; failed experimental formations; draws and near-losses to Europe's minnows; a completely inept performance and loss against the only serious qualifying competition; never showing even the remotest signs of a squad that could compete with the world's footballing powers; and excuses in advance of every match.

Maybe the FA just don't want to admit failure, but unbelievably, it now seems entirely possible that the FA would accept a future McClaren quote of, "I don't think we can be judged solely on our failure to qualify for Europe. It takes time to build a program and we're making steps in the right direction. I should be judged after qualifying for the World Cup and not before."

It is all far from what should be expected from one of the world's top footballing nations. But startlingly, and sadly, it has become the status quo.

More from other web sites (in a new window):
McClaren doesn't fear being fired - AP
Venables irked by foreign influx - BBC
England boss McClaren out of his depth? - Nick Webster / Fox Soccer Channel

Related on Soccer Golazo:
England Manager Steve McClaren Starts Spin Early
Michael Owen - England, Newcastle Striker Back In Training

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