McClaren’s reign ends

Steve McClaren ended his reign on November 22 as statistically the worst manager of the England soccer team in history, and walked away with a cheque for GBP2.5m after only 18 months in the job. His former employers at the Football Association began the search for a replacement by announcing a review of where it all went wrong during his tenure, which saw five defeats in 18 games and a miserable failure to reach next summer’s European Championships.

McClaren’s fate, sealed by defeat to Croatia that eliminated England from Euro 2008, was confirmed at an emergency meeting of the FA board, which voted unanimously to end his contract two years early.

McClaren received the equivalent of a year’s salary, and said he had no regrets after the shortest tenure

of any England manager. “This is one of the saddest days of my career, and 18 months ago when I took

the job was the proudest day of my career,” he said.

“I believed I was up to the job when I took it and I still believe it now. But obviously, you are judged by results. I said right at the start I would live and die by results and results haven’t gone my way. In that sense we have failed.”

As McClaren left for a long-haul holiday, Brian Barwick, the chief executive of the England Football Association, began the process of finding his successor. Former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho and Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill head the bookmakers’ markets and the supporters’ shortlists, but persuading either to take on the England challenge will take some doing.

Barwick, who is counting the cost of a GBP5m loss for the FA as a result of missing out on the finals, apologised to the supporters. “I’d like to apologise to the fans personally. I understand we have let them down and apologise for that,” he said.

The UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown pitched in by backing Scottish plans to revive the home international tournament next summer, a plan that would tally with his idea of Britishness and may help in the formation of a GB football team for the 2012 Olympics. “I know every football fan in Britain was looking forward to a summer of football next year, so it is very disappointing,” he said. “I know some people have called for the reintroduction of these home internationals next year. I would seriously enjoy that.”

Elimination from the finals, the first major tournament England have failed to qualify for since 1994, has already sparked debate about how a country that sustains the Premier League, the richest and most successful domestic competition in football, cannot produce a national side capable of joining the best 16 teams on its own continent.

Paul Kelso © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007