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Steve McClaren's decision to take his second leave of Twente - this time in less happy circumstances - forces him once more on to the job market but prompts, too, the question of what is a successful football manager. Is it only one who wins the big prizes, or is it also one who simply works regularly?
It remains difficult to write anything positive about McClaren, more than five years after his final game in charge of England. He has the misfortune to represent not merely his own failings but also those of a media pack whose actions led to his appointment and yet which accepts no blame for an evitable debacle. The summer after the Croatia defeat he then had the gall to be a radio pundit at the tournament where he should have been coaching England; others may feel it has been eclipsed by more recent embarrassments but it is possible to still seethe at that low for the BBC.
Since leaving England he has been forced out at Wolfsburg, at Nottingham Forest and now at Twente. The baggage he carried barred him from the Aston Villa job. Yet he has become the first Englishman to coach in the Bundesliga, the second to rack up 100 league games in the Netherlands, and above all else won the Dutch title to conclude his first, two-year spell at Twente in 2010.
Before England, his reputation for innovation enabled him to rise to prominence in Sir Alex Ferguson's backroom staff at Manchester United. When he struck out on his own he won Middlesbrough's first major trophy, the 2004 League Cup. Though the Sevilla match ended embarrassingly, he coached them to the 2006 UEFA Cup final, along with acting as Sven Goran Eriksson's assistant at the national team during an era more successful than the years immediately before or after.
The failures have been scarring; acclaim was limited on Teesside and even the Twente years count against him in England because of the Schteve schtick. Yet he has been extremely well paid by the standards of perhaps 99% of the people reading (and 100% of those writing) this article and he has enjoyed a diverse career and lifestyle as a coach; he has been far more successful in that role than he was as a player.
An outside observer could say that he has been undone twice by over-ambition: first when he accepted the national team job, second when he left Twente after securing their first Eredivisie title for Wolfsburg, who had enjoyed a similar first Bundesliga success the year before, raising expectations. But at the age of 51 there is plenty of time for him to find a niche that fits him as well as Twente did initially and, given the path he carved out after an unpromising playing career, he is entitled to feel pride whatever the regrets.
The Eredivisie is not La Liga or the Premier League, and the reason he went to Germany was because it was a step up. But nonetheless it is a title well worth winning and plenty of long-serving managers never get their hands on a bauble on the scale of the League Cup (such as Sam Allardyce, the unsuccessful Bolton manager in the 2004 final). True, he enjoyed considerable investment at Middlesbrough, but he still led a side currently seventh in the Championship into that position at the end of the 2004-05 Premier League, qualifying for the UEFA Cup. To almost any football fan, McClaren is a failure, yet with plenty of time left he has achieved more than most of his peers will ever do.
No doubt he cares about what he does, but Steve's story is a reminder that while for the supporter, football is an irrational passion, for those within the game it is also simply about having a job. Right now that is not the case but by that measure his career has been a triumph.
My Middlesbrough-supporting family certainly seemed to be big fans of Steve McClaren. I'm not sure why you'd say his acclaim on Teesside was limited. When was the last time you actually went out and polled the locals for their opinion or are you just taking a wild stab in the dark with that one? If you're going to try and be positive about someone, at least properly research the positive aspects.- harry hotspur