Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 23 News List

UEFA: McClaren maintains stiff upper lip

AP , YARM, ENGLANDAFP, SINGAPORE

England's European Championship campaign is hanging by a fine thread. That hasn't stopped Steve McClaren from forecasting a bright future for the team -- which includes him at the helm.

Although, that won't be his decision to make.

"I want to go on, I love this job," McClaren said on Friday. "I've got faith and belief in these players ... they will go on in the future and be successful."

For now he can only focus on the coming week, with England in danger of missing out on a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup.

"I can't control what happens," McClaren said. "The campaign is not over and we're still in. Until we're out of it that's when all the debate will start."

That could be as early as Saturday next week if Russia beats Israel to render as redundant England's final Group E qualifier with Croatia on Nov. 21.

Which is why McClaren is Israel's newest and biggest fan.

"They are a proud nation," he said. "They have a fantastic home record. We have to get behind the Israelis and say we need a performance from them. They know that. The whole country, the whole of Europe will be looking at that game."

The former Middlesbrough manager had a forlorn introduction to international management last autumn, losing 2-0 in Croatia after a disastrous experiment with a 3-5-2 formation, plus a dire goalless draw at home to Macedonia.

"I had different ideas and to get them across sometimes it happens straight away and sometimes it takes a bit of time," he said. "It took a little bit longer than I thought it would do, but it's happened and I believe we've turned it around and now we're going forward."

In May, that meant going back to former captain David Beckham, who McClaren axed after succeeding Sven-Goran Eriksson in August last year.

The reliance on Beckham earned the Los Angeles midfielder a place in the latest roster -- and a courtesy visit to California by McClaren -- despite lacking match fitness after a long injury layoff.

England would be preparing for Euro 2008 if they hadn't lost to Russia last month while leading 1-0 with 20 minutes to go. Before coming unstuck in Moscow, McClaren had enjoyed a renaissance with five straight 3-0 qualifying victories.

"I am not making excuses over what has happened. That is where we are," McClaren said. "I hope and believe, and I have to believe, that results will go right on Saturday, and that we go into that Croatia game with destiny in our own hands. And then the judgments will be made."

The Austria friendly next Friday will be a chance to test players, like Beckham, recovering from injuries.

Goalkeeper Paul Robinson has been given renewed backing, despite concerns about his aptitude following a series of recent blunders for Tottenham.

"I've been loyal to Robbo all the way through, as I always will be," McClaren said. "He's never really let me down."

If Croatia is indeed a decider -- and not a final chance for fans to vent their anger at McClaren -- England will have to win without Wayne Rooney leading the attack. The Manchester United striker was ruled out for a month on Friday with an ankle injury.

The first-choice partnership in central defense will also be missing, with John Terry (injured) and Rio Ferdinand (suspended).

McClaren hasn't ruled out persuading Jamie Carragher to return, despite furiously announcing his retirement from international soccer in the summer in frustration at being overlooked in the starting lineup. A Sol Campbell-Wes Brown linkup is McClaren's likely choice.

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