He may still be dubbed as “the Wally with the Brolly” in England after that infamous defeat to Croatia at Wembley where the national side failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships. While, in Holland Steve McClaren may soon become known as “the man who wins plenty with FC Twente.”
Having guided Twente to runners-up spot in the Dutch league in his first season in charge, McClaren is now on the verge of winning the Eredivisie with the club. It would be their first time winning since reforming as FC Twente in 1965 – they have won the league previously in 1926 when they were known as Sportclub Enschede.
With one game left to the go Twente remain top of the league one point ahead of second placed Ajax. If McClaren does indeed win the title then he is well on his way to recovering his reputation. He has already been short listed for coach of the year along with Ajax’s Martin Jol, Feyenoord’s Mario Been and Heracles Almelo’s Gertjan Verbeek.
Clubs in England are beginning to take a notice in his achievements with West Ham looking for his services. But the former Middlesbrough manager has been quoted in the past as saying: “I’ve no idea if I’ll ever go back to coaching in England. I’ve long since stopped planning my career in terms of ‘I’d like to do this or that.’”
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of his achievements with the current crop of players is that he has not brought over any English players, instead going for home-grown talent along with coaches from Holland.
In recent interview with the Guardian he talked about this: “My assistants are all Dutch; there are some fantastic young coaches here. I thought it was important to embrace and understand the culture of the club and Dutch football rather than import a different one.”
Twente’s rise is certainly one for all to take note of. Over the past nine years they have been climbing the table slowly but surely from 12th in 2003 up 6th in 2005 before a minor blip which saw them drop to 9th in 2006, then two fourth place finishes and of course last season they were runners-up to AZ Alkmaar.
There has also been a consistent air about their performance this season. Certainly their home record speaks for itself – winning 16 of their 17 games at De Grolsch Veste and drawing the other, similar to Ajax.
Certainly, it is amazing to look at the league table and see Ajax’s goal difference of +83 having scored 102 goals and conceded just 19 and still not be on top of the league. But, as well all know victories and points are what really matter and that is where Twente hold the advantage going into the final round of fixtures on May 2nd.
Sir Bobby Robson, advised McClaren to take the job with Twente. So, it is perhaps fitting that if his side is to beat NAC Breda on Sunday week he will become the first English manager since Robson at Porto in 1996 to win a major European league title.
Now, if that isn’t redemption then I don’t know what is. Should he comeback and manage in England? Maybe not just yet, but certainly one day.