Unfinished Business

Some rights reserved by Chris. Jack on Flickr

Steve McClaren’s recent return to English football was preceded in similar fashion to how he left it. Angry Aston Villa fans bombarded message boards and phone ins to voice their displeasure at the mere thought of the ex-England manager taking over, and in the end, the job went elsewhere. It is clear that McClaren’s redemption in English football is not yet fully complete.

After Billy Davies’ failure to win promotion with Nottingham Forest after several seasons of play off misery, a fresh change was sought and McClaren was appointed on a three year deal. “Getting Nottingham Forest into the Premier League is a big and difficult challenge, but I don’t fear it. English football is the best league, the best football, the most passionate, everyone from abroad wants to play here. It’s where you want to coach, manage or play.”

Looking around Nottingham Forest’s trophy room would be a daunting experience for any new manager, as the scale of the expectation starts to kick in. At the club where the greatest manager never to manage England won European Cups and League titles, paradoxically, in steps a manager considered one of the worst to ever manage England.

Forgetting his failure with the national side, on the face of it McClaren’s arrival certainly appears to be a sensible one for all parties concerned. In comes a manager with managerial experience at all levels of the game, at home and abroad, and a CV boasting trophies.

He won Middlesbrough’s first ever major honour in the form of the League Cup in 2004 and reached the UEFA Cup final in 2006. His successful stints as assistant manager at Manchester United and Derby should also not be forgotten, as United won the title every season McClaren was there, including the treble in 1999.

In his own admission, the England job came too soon in his career, but the quiet and dignified fashion in which he has rebuilt his career since that wet night at Wembley should be admired.

Dutch accent jokes aside, his title success in Eredivisie with FC Twente was astonishing considering the size of the club and the competition from the established powerhouses of Dutch football such as Ajax, PSV and AZ Alkmaar. He steered the small side from Enschede to their first ever title in 2010 and consequently qualification for the Champions League group stages. The season before, he had already guided Twente to second in the league and the cup final.

His spell at Wolfsburg was largely a failure, but his reputation remained largely untarnished in Europe. It is at home where he still has the most to prove to English fans. If he wins promotion with Nottingham Forest at the first attempt, his long journey to redemption will finally be complete.

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