Sat, May 06, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Steve McClaren to head up England after World Cup


Steve McClaren was hired on Thursday to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson as England coach after the World Cup.

The Middlesbrough manager, who has been Eriksson's assistant for five years, was appointed by the Football Association after a rocky three-month search for a new national coach.

McClaren, 45, signed a four-year contract and will start the job on Aug. 1.

"This is the biggest honor that any coach can have, and is obviously the highlight of my career," he said. "It's a massive challenge and one that I welcome."

McClaren got the job after Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari ruled himself out as a candidate last week.

The FA picked an Englishman to succeed Eriksson, a Swede who was the first foreigner to coach the national side. Eriksson is stepping down after the World Cup, two years before the end of his contract.

"You know what I think about Steve McClaren, he is extremely good," Eriksson said on Wednesday. "As a coach, he has been perfect. Every time."

McClaren's first game in charge will be a friendly against Greece at Manchester United's Old Trafford on Aug. 16.

McClaren, who also served as Alex Ferguson's assistant at Man United for two years, has guided Middlesbrough to next Wednesday's UEFA Cup final against Sevilla. It's the first European final for the club.

"I have hugely enjoyed my time at Middlesbrough and am very grateful to the club," McClaren said. "However, this was an opportunity I couldn't refuse."

McClaren downplayed his widely reported status as the FA's second choice behind Scolari.

"For me, it's not an issue," he said. "I don't see it as first choice, second choice. I am the choice of the FA and I sit here as the next England coach. ... For me, the outcome is I'm the proudest man in England today and looking forward to the challenge"

FA chief executive Brian Barwick insisted McClaren had always been his top choice, saying Scolari had never actually been offered the job.

"He [McClaren] did two fantastic interviews," Barwick said. "He was my first choice, the FA board's unanimous choice."

Barwick said he met three times with Scolari.

"There were potential developments," he said. "He then declared he had no interest in the job. We never offered him the job. My first choice was always Steve McClaren. That might be difficult for people to get their heads across."

McClaren's appointment will please those England fans who oppose hiring another foreign coach and believe the national team should be headed by a homegrown manager.

But McClaren wasn't the popular choice of the fans or the media, with various polls putting him far behind other candidates. Critics consider him bland and lacking in charisma, and question his overall success as a club manager.

McClaren said he could win over skeptical fans by guiding England to major titles.

"What I am is results oriented," he said. "I'm here to do a job, to win football matches. ... I know my qualities, they've been well documented. I've got the experience, I've got the knowledge, I like challenges."

Other candidates for the England job had included Bolton's Sam Allardyce, former Celtic manager Martin O'Neill and Charlton's Alan Curbishley.

O'Neill and PSV Eindhoven's Guus Hiddink were strong favorites.

Hiddink, who led both the Netherlands and South Korea to the World Cup semifinals and is coaching Australia at next month's World Cup in Germany, is taking charge of Russia instead.

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