Tue, May 09, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Middlesbrough's Steve McClaren stalks UEFA Cup

AP , LONDON

Steve McClaren wants to start his England job as a UEFA Cup winner.

Chosen to be Sven-Goran Eriksson's replacement as England head coach after the World Cup, he has been combining his role as manager of UEFA Cup finalist Middlesbrough with being the Swede's assistant with the national team.

Before he puts on his England blazer, he plans to take Boro to its first ever European title tomorrow when the team faces Spain's Sevilla in the UEFA Cup final.

Because both teams are in their first European final, there will be a new name on the UEFA Cup roll of honor when the trophy is presented to winning captain in Eindhoven, Netherlands, tomorrow.

Few would have predicted it would be Middlesbrough and Sevilla.

Only three months ago, McClaren and Middlesbrough were struggling.

With Boro losing 7-0 at Arsenal and 4-0 at home to Aston Villa the team was sliding towards relegation and a disgusted fan ran onto the field to hurl his season ticket at McClaren.

"It was a time where you have to get through," McClaren said when reminded of Boro's alarming slump.

"We knew the reasons why. That's what always kept me going and we knew we'd come out of it. It's something that every manager goes through in every season. We've come through it with flying colors.

"It was a test for me and I got through it."

Now the newly appointed England coach wants to win the UEFA Cup to say thank you to those Boro fans who had faith in him.

"It's been a long road to the final but there is no good getting there and losing," said McClaren, whose team has played 14 matches on the way to Eindhoven. "I remember the 60 or 70 fans who must have traveled for days to watch up against Xanthi in Greece.

"It's for those people we want to go out and win it. I'm glad the England situation was sorted out in good time for me to focus fully on this match."

The Football Association took three months to choose McClaren as replacement for Eriksson and, after 250 games in charge of Boro, McClaren takes one of the toughest jobs in football Aug. 1.

Maybe by then he'll be both a UEFA Cup and World Cup winner.

McClaren, who rested his entire first-choice lineup for Sunday's final Premier League game against Fulham, has to decide whether to recall Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer for the game against Seville.

Schwarzer broke his cheekbone in an FA Cup semifinal loss to West Ham two weeks ago and. if he plays, will wear a protective mask.

on the rise

While Middlesbrough has struggled to join the Premier League powerhouses, Sevilla is rising through the ranks of Spanish league clubs and hopes to make it to next year's European Champions League.

Saturday's 2-0 win over relegated Malaga lifted Juande Ramos's team into fifth place in the Spanish league, just three points behind fourth-place Osasuna with two games to go. The top four play in the Champions League and Barcelona, Valencia and Real Madrid already have qualified.

"The final has enormous importance for the club and its fans," Ramos said. "We're very excited at having the chance to win a trophy. If we are able to prepare for Wednesday's game properly and we recover from all our effort and knocks I think we can show our best qualities."

Sevilla's improvement has come less than a year after coach Joaquin Caparros left the club and two star players, Brazil attacking midfielder Julio Baptista and Spain defender Sergio Ramos, were sold to Real Madrid.

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