Steve McClaren's appointment as England manager crowns a remarkable rise to prominence less than five years after his first managerial posting.
Sven-Göran Eriksson's successor took over at Middlesbrough FC in July 2001 having spent three trophy-laden years as assistant manager at Manchester United FC. The early signs were not promising as McClaren's first four matches resulted in defeat, but the ship was swiftly steadied and the Teesside team finished the season in a solid 12th position and reached the FA Cup semi-final. The next campaign was also one of consolidation but McClaren's place in Middlesbrough history was assured on 29 February 2004 as the club ended 128 years of waiting for a first major trophy by defeating Bolton Wanderers FC in the English League Cup final.
That triumph brought a first foray in the UEFA Cup and McClaren proved himself a quick learner at European level, masterminding a home win against S.S. Lazio on the way to the Round of 16 where an injury-ravaged Middlesbrough lost to eventual finalists Sporting Clube de Portugal. That was married to improved league form which brought a seventh-placed finish and another UEFA Cup campaign. Although the group stage was safely negotiated, McClaren was under mounting pressure by the time the competition resumed in February after a succession of disappointing league performances culminating in heavy defeats by Arsenal FC and Aston Villa FC.
Since then, however, the turnaround has been remarkable as Middlesbrough's runs in the UEFA Cup and FA Cup prompted an upturn in the side's Premiership fortunes heralded by a 3-0 dismantling of champions Chelsea FC. Although the FA Cup campaign ended in a disappointing semi-final loss to West Ham United FC, Middlesbrough went from strength to strength in Europe, eliminating VfB Stuttgart and AS Roma before mounting sterling comebacks against both FC Basel 1893 and FC Steaua Bucuresti, scoring four goals on each occasion to advance. Those results altered the public perception of McClaren; previously viewed as a cautious, safety-first manager, his willingness to throw men forward proved he could change the course of a match and, perhaps, clinched his new role.
McClaren spent his playing career in the lower divisions until injury forced his retirement in 1992, when he promptly became youth-team coach and then took charge of the reserves at Oxford United FC. He became Derby County FC's first-team coach three years later and helped the club to two decent Premiership finishes before leaving to become Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant at United in 1999. His first term at Old Trafford was a memorable one as United claimed an unprecedented treble of UEFA Champions League, Premiership and FA Cup and further league titles followed in 2000 and 2001 before McClaren opted to try his hand at management.
His new role, meanwhile, is one he has long since coveted. Speaking last September, McClaren admitted: "
The England job is the pinnacle. I always wanted to be a coach and when I started out at Oxford, I wanted to coach England. I was a million miles away then. Now I've worked with the England team, while I'm managing Middlesbrough and having success, so why can't I achieve that?" Having attained the pinnacle, McClaren will be keen to show he has a head for heights, but more immediately, he has another trophy to win for Middlesbrough.
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