Steve McClaren may have much to celebrate after guiding FC Twente to their highest Eredivisie finish, runners-up to AZ Alkmaar, but the English coach insists that it is just the start.
Twente's hunger and bite proved too much for newly crowned champions AZ on Sunday as the home side claimed an impressive 3-0 victory that, with third-placed AFC Ajax shocked 4-0 at Sparta Rotterdam, guarantees second spot with a game to spare. "At the end of the campaign you are found in the position you deserve," said McClaren, who was also celebrating his 48th birthday as his team achieved their feat. "I think that because of our performances this season, we really deserve second. Over the next 24 hours we will celebrate getting it, and from then on we will focus on the Cup final."
The Dutch Cup final, against SC Heerenveen in Rotterdam on 17 May, will represent another blow to the three-way dominance of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven. AZ's title triumph wrested the championship away from the trio for the first time since they won the title in 1981, and by securing second Twente ensured that none of them finished in the top two for the first time in half a century.
For former England manager McClaren, it marks a successful first season in Dutch football, as although SC Enschede – one of the clubs that merged to create Twente in 1965 – won the title in 1926, the outfit in their current guise have never finished better then second, as they did in 1974. It could get even better if they overcome Heerenveen, but the Fulford native is already looking forward to a return to the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, hoping they do not draw a team of Arsenal FC's might this time around, as they did so last August. "It's still a long way to the group stage, but everyone in the qualifying round has a chance," said McClaren. "I hope we have a little luck this time and do not draw a team like Arsenal."
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