When most people hear the name ‘McClaren’ in England they either think of a Formula One car, or conjure up an image of a ginger haired man cowering from the rain, underneath a sizeable umbrella.
For those whose brains trigger the second option it will usually be followed by the notorious nickname of ‘The Wally with a brolly.’ A segment of the Dutch population, however, treats Steve McClaren more fondly. To such a degree that, during his second coming to Dutch side Twente, fans greeted him with t-shirts reading ‘Welcome back Steve.’
As assistant manager to Alex Ferguson, at Manchester United, he built a solid enough reputation. It was a reputation that was further enhanced when he won the league cup as Manager of Middlesbrough in 2004, and took them to the final of the UEFA Cup in 2006. His achievements were enough to land him the England job, albeit as second choice to ‘Big Phil’ Scolari who turned down the role. McClaren’s reign in the international limelight was the shortest lived of any England manager. He was sacked after just 18 games, due to his failure of being able to lead the nation to the 2008 European Championships.
Just over six months later the humiliated manager was offered a reprieve with Dutch club FC Twente. McClaren resisted the urge to completely reshuffle the backroom staff, a trait common with most foreign managers taking over at a new club. It was a decision that quickly warmed him to fans. "I was surprised how well everything was organised. That is why I did not bring anyone of my own in.” said McClaren. “They already had the best playing team in the Eredivisie, and they were ambitious. The only thing for me to do was not stand in the way in the early weeks."
McClaren took his time assessing his new squad, watching the first ten matches on the ProZone video analysis system before forming his best line-up. That season Twente finished second in the league, lost in the final of the Dutch Cup and remained in the UEFA Cup beyond winter, for the first time in 30 years. Fans were worried about the end of season departures of Elia and Arnautovic, but, McClaren replaced them well with Bryan Ruiz and Miroslav Stoch. In his first full season in charge he took the club to the top of the Eredivisie by October, and that is the position they remained for the rest of the campaign. Twente won 16 out of 17 home games and won the league by one point for the first time in the clubs history. He was also awarded the 'Rinus Michels Award',’ for Dutch manager of the season, and became the first Englishman to manage a team to a top-level domestic league title since Bobby Robson withPorto in 1996.
With success came the incentive of a 1.6m Euro contract offer from German outfit VFL Wolfsburg. McClaren took it but, failed to get the best out of a team containing Edin Dzeko and Brazilian playmaker Diego. With the team only one place above the relegation zone he was sacked within a season, and any rebuilding of his reputation was again in tatters.
In the summer of 2011 Villa made it public knowledge that McClaren was to be given an interview for the vacant manager’s position. The Villa fans demonstrated and Randy Lerner thought better of it. There was another midlands team willing to take him on though, they were Nottingham Forrest. He left after only 112 days, citing the club's refusal to sign two Premier League players on loan deals as his reason.
It seemed that McClaren was about to become lost in the managerial wilderness forever but, fuelled by past glories FC Twente wanted their English hero back. He took on the job just after Christmas and finished the season in 6th place. After suitable time to analyse he added new players to the team in the summer, most notably Dusan Tadic and young Dutch striker Luc Castaignos.
Once again McClaren appears to have waved his magic Dutch wand. His side currently sit top of the table by three points and, until last weekends 1-0 defeat toAjax, his team boasted a 100% record. McClaren’s entire Dutch CV makes for impressive perusing. During a total of 144 games in charge he has won 89 and lost only 26. Whether it is the strange phenomena that his hair matches the colour of their national shirt, or the idea that the dressing room cannot translate his instructions, there is something about Holland that McClaren get’s very right?
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