Football, it’s a strange old game… One minute you’re coaching the England National team to what should have been routine qualification to a European campaign, the next you’re stood in the pouring rain with nothing but a comically oversized umbrella and a damp P45.
Football fans up and down the country have taken great pleasure in tarring Steve McClaren with the same tired and overused brush over the last few years, the wally with the brolly, the man that crushed a million dreams, Schteve.
Call him what you want, but at the end of the day there’s simply no denying that this man is a rare talent in football.
You all know the story, success as assistant manager alongside the bald eagle Jim Smith and the managerial behemoth that was Sir Alex Ferguson at both Derby County and Manchester United respectively put his name on the map as a respected coach, and his success as manager at Middlesborough made him a household name.
But, it’s his failures that made Steve McClaren the man he is today.
Following what quite simply was a disastrous EURO 2008 qualifying campaign in which he managed the Three Lions, McClaren found himself exiled from English football after becoming the second ever England manager to fail to see his side qualify for the finals of a major tournament.
The media chewed him up and spat him out, despite his more than adequate CV the pain was still far too fresh in everyone’s minds to allow him an immediate return to club football in England.
That’s when the Dutch came calling. FC Twente acquired the services of McClaren in June 2008, and despite what fans saw as a dubious decision from the upper-management, over time Steve converted the doubters when he led the club to an impressive second placed finish in the Eredivisie in what was only his first season in charge, going one better the following season delivering the title to what many consider one of the smaller clubs in Holland when stood alongside the likes of Ajax and PSV.
Despite one hilariously bizarre television interview which saw him put on an incredibly poor Dutch accent, his stint with Twente was a huge success and made him a household name on the world stage, this time, for all the right reasons.
His glorious rise from the ashes of a failed International career put McClaren back in the managerial spotlight once again, Bundesliga side Wolfsburg approached him in the summer of 2010 and offered him the opportunity to become the first English manager to take charge of a team in Germany’s top flight, although a series of poor results and behind the scenes drama meant very little came from his time with the club after less than a season in charge.
After several years of exile from our murky shores McClaren was given a golden opportunity to return to England when Nottingham Forest aqquired his services, a job that seemed perfect for the former England man.
While it’s hard to say as a Derby County supporter, McClaren and Forest should have been a perfect match on paper, Forest are without a doubt a huge club with huge ambitions, and there’s no doubt that the ambitious McClaren could have more than delivered the goods given the time and patience from the boardroom.
Instead, he lasted an embarrassing ten games at the City Ground before resigning claiming he had not been given the financial backing that he had been promised.
McClaren then returned to the city of Enschede, the city where he was once hailed a hero by the Twente fans. But a second spell with the Dutch club wasn’t quite the fairytale he was hoping for as he failed to recapture the magic of his first stint in charge and departed by mutual consent after just over a year at the helm.
After a brief period coaching at QPR alongside Harry Redknapp, where he received immense praise from both the coaching staff and players McClaren made the move back to the first ever club he managed as an assistant, Derby County.
I can well and truly say that In all the years that I’ve watched my beloved Derby County never have I come across a manager that has instilled such a wonderful style of football upon the team, a confident, free flowing attacking game which has time and again proved to be a pleasure to watch.
He has time and again impressed since taking the reigns at the iPro Stadium, top class loan signings such as Andre Wisdom from Liverpool, Patrick Bamford from Chelsea and George Thorne from West Bromwich Albion have greatly bolstered what was already a hard working and tight unit built by is his predecessor Nigel Clough (Who must take credit for where Derby find themselves today).
Wins against top teams such as Nottingham Forest, Wigan Athletic and Brighton have seen McClaren propel the Rams into a top 6 finish when it looked to be another disappointing season for Derby County fans.
Over time he’s proved himself popular with both supporters and the media alike, despite arguably being the most hated man in the country at one point in his career. He’s a good old fashioned British manager who has bucked the trend and made the unusual choice to try his hand abroad, while it produced mixed results it’s more than fair to say that it’s done him the world of good.
Steve McClaren has fought from the very bottom to get to where he is today, and it’s no doubt been an incredibly difficult journey with plenty of ups and downs, but with Derby County’s upcoming play-off fixture with Oscar Garcia’s Brighton & Hove Albion he has the chance to write a whole new chapter entitled ‘redemption’ in a book spanning what has been a phenomenally diverse managerial career.
Does Steve McClaren dare to dream? I think so.
By Sam Gascoyne – Derby fan – @