McClaren admits England flop drove him to prove himself
Steve McClaren is adamant he has nothing more to prove as he prepares to make his Premier League bow with Newcastle against Southampton at St James’ Park today.
McClaren admits he spent years seeking to repair his reputation after being booted out of the England job in 2006, but the 54-year-old says his own career is now very much rooted in the present.
McClaren said: “After the England job, I spent a lot of years trying to prove myself, then after that I spent a lot of time gaining experience. That is what I have been doing. I have tried a couple of times to come back, but it is difficult for an England manager to come back and manage — Sir Bobby (Robson) didn’t do a bad job, but there were quite a few years in between.
“Hopefully those years have set me up to do that. You want to come back in the Premier League and if you want to pick a club, there are not many as big as Newcastle United in terms of potential.”
McClaren has accepted there can be no honeymoon period as he tries to lift the air of despondency that hung over Tyneside during last season’s calamitous campaign. A summer spending spree, which has brought in the likes of Gini Wijnaldum, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba, plus a contract extension for captain Fabricio Coloccini this week, have gone some way to improving the mood.
And McClaren knows the onus is now on him to win over those doubters who remain unconvinced by his appointment to replace former caretaker boss John Carver in the summer. “I can understand that point of view and it’s no problem,” added McClaren. “I’ve got the opportunity and it’s something I’ve wanted since I’ve lived in this area. Wherever you go, you want to make it work. That is the difference. Before, it was drive and ambition and everything and now it’s, ‘Let’s do the job’. Wherever I have been since then (England), I have said, ‘That’s it, I just want to do the job here and not have ambitions for anywhere else’ — and so I am here.”
While Wijnaldum is set to start against the Saints, McClaren is unlikely to risk either Mitrovic or Mbemba from the start, due to their relative lack of match fitness. Coloccini is also facing a late fitness test after missing almost the entirety of the Magpies’ pre-season programme with an Achilles complaint. Dusan Tadic credits McClaren for his “winning mentality” — an attribute the Southampton midfielder hopes will haunt his former manager today.
During the 54-year-old’s second spell at FC Twente, he signed the Serbia international in from FC Groningen in a £5.4m deal — a fine bit of business which saw the attacking midfielder sold on to Saints for double that last summer.
“He’s a great manager, a great person,” Tadic said. “It was a pleasure to work with him. For sure, he’s going to make Newcastle better.”
Asked the biggest thing he learnt from McClaren, Tadic said: “A winning mentality. To take responsibility. To work hard. These kinds of things.”
One of the areas Tadic and his Southampton team-mates will be focused on this weekend is using possession better. Southampton secured progress to the Europa League play-offs with a 2-0 win at Vitesse Arnhem on Thursday, taking the tie 5-0 on aggregate, but the Serbian was frustrated by their lack of fluidity with the ball. “Vitesse were much better in possession, they were more dangerous and I think we were defending okay, but when we got the ball, we need to play much better,” he said.
“We are a serious team, this cannot be an excuse for us. Our performance wants to be much better with the ball and we need to play much better with it. We really, really need to improve that segment. It’s easier to play with the ball (than without it).
“(Against Vitesse), we were defending, but we give them too much of the ball and then it’s difficult to play. We need to improve that because this is going to be important.”