England coach faces opposition

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> The signs weren't good when fans hoisted "McClaren Out'' banners at the World Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:36 IST
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The signs weren't good when fans hoisted "McClaren Out'' banners at the World Cup. That was in June. Steve McClaren didn't become England's new soccer coach until Tuesday. Successor to the much derided Sven-Goran Eriksson, McClaren is now in charge of one of the biggest underachievers in soccer and faces an almost impossible situation. The fans don't want him. He doesn't have the charisma of a Luiz Felipe Scolari or Juergen Klinsmann. He has won very little, only one third-rate domestic trophy with a low-key team. And, as Eriksson's second in command, he shares much of the blame for England's dismal performance at the World Cup. Chances are good that the former Middlesbrough coach will add his name to the long list of managers who have failed to bring a title to the country that claims to have invented the game. England hasn't even reached a final of the World Cup or European Championship. Eriksson failed to take the team past the quarterfinals in three attempts. England went into this year's World Cup with its most talented lineup in decades, including Manchester United's Wayne Rooney, Real Madrid's David Beckham, Newcastle's Michael Owen, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Chelsea's Frank Lampard and John Terry. About 70,000 England fans traveled to Germany hoping that Eriksson and McClaren, who had a successful two-year spell as assistant to Manchester United's Alex Ferguson, would deliver not only the World Cup but also performances that showed English soccer was the best on the planet. Poor display They got neither. England played poorly and lost in a penalty-kick shootout to Portugal in the quarterfinals. There was a gloom hanging over the nation's soccer fans as they trooped home seemingly with little to look forward to. McClaren's job is to lift those clouds of despair. So far, he is saying the right things. "It will be totally different from Sven and his five years,'' said McClaren. "I will look to make a few changes and freshen a few things up. The aim is to try to bring the whole nation closer together, to bring the England team closer to the clubs and the fans.'' The problem is many of the fans didn't want him in the first place. McClaren got the job only after England was turned down by Scolari, who led Brazil to its 2002 World Cup triumph before moving on to coach Portugal, and Guus Hiddink, who had standout results with the Netherlands, South Korea and Australia, decided to take charge of Russia's national team. McClaren faces another big problem. For all his failures at major tournaments, Eriksson had an impressive record in qualifying - only one defeat in 23 games, the highlight being a 5-1 victory over Germany in Munich. McClaren, who signed a four-year contract up to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, has to at least match that. His spell in charge begins with a friendly against European champion Greece on August 16 followed by Euro 2008 qualifying games in early September. If England fails to beat a Greek team that failed to qualify for the World Cup and then drops points against lowly Andorra and Macedonia, the cries of "McClaren Out'' will grow only louder and louder. (AP)