Euro 2008: England fires coach McClaren

England fired coach Steve McClaren on Thursday, a day after the team lost to Croatia and failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.

updated: November 23, 2007 11:59 IST
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England fired coach Steve McClaren on Thursday, a day after the team lost to Croatia and failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship.

Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson said McClaren's contract had been terminated with immediate effect, along with that of assistant Terry Venables.

Needing only a draw at Wembley to qualify for Euro 2008, England was beaten 3-2 by Croatia on Wednesday night. Croatia had already qualified, and the other spot from Group E went to Russia.

It was the first time since the 1994 World Cup that England had failed to qualify for a major championship and first since 1984 that the team will miss the Euros.

McClaren accepts responsibility

Steve McClaren accepted responsibility for England's failure to qualify for next year's European Championship, hours after being fired as coach.

Despite wanting to stay on as coach, his team's 3-2 loss to Croatia left England without a major tournament to contend for the first time since the 1994 World Cup.

"Ultimately it's my responsibility, my job," McClaren said. "When I took it on I said I'd live and die by results, and I'd live and die by qualification. Judge me on that - and people have."

After Wednesday's loss at Wembley Stadium, McClaren had ruled out resigning. But Football Association chairman Geoff Thompson announced Thursday morning that the former Middlesbrough manager's contract had been terminated after an emergency meeting by the 12-man FA board.

"It is a sad day to be relieved of my post and I understand the decision of the FA," McClaren said. "I have never walked away from anything and I never wanted to. There was no reason to.

"The decision was taken out of my hands."

McClaren had a forlorn introduction to international management after succeeding Sven-Goran Eriksson following the 2006 World Cup.

The Swede's former assistant lost in Croatia 2-0 after a disastrous experiment with a 3-5-2 formation, followed by dire goalless draws against Macedonia and at Israel.

But he reversed the stuttering form to win five straight matches 3-0 in Group E. Last month, his players were just 20 minutes from qualifying until Russia rallied to win 2-1.

The team's fate then relied last weekend on Israel and Macedonia, who handed McClaren two lifelines by overcoming Russia and Croatia, meaning a draw against the Croats would suffice.

"I am a better coach than I was 18 months ago," McClaren said. "It was a failure but I will learn from that and move on."

But no previous England manager had lost three matches in a qualifying campaign.

"I'm not making any excuses, we had enough games to do it," McClaren said. "I'm taking full responsibility. Results didn't go our way and I paid the price ... I'm just hugely disappointed."

Still, he vowed to make a swift return to management.

"All I can do is concentrate on getting over this huge disappointment and looking forward," McClaren said. "Although it is a sad day I will recover, bounce back and wait for my next challenge.

"I'm not one to lie on a beach."

Despite being fired over the phone at 0930 GMT by FA chief executive Brian Barwick, McClaren maintained that he had unwavering backing from the organization's officials throughout his reign.

"The support I've had from everybody over the 18 months but particularly, the last six weeks, has been fantastic from everybody," McClaren said. "I've always had support from the FA, they have been very good to me.

"The support from the players has been fantastic. I've worked with them for six years now and the players I've worked with, no matter what people say and the criticism coming their way, they are a fantastic bunch of players."

He refused to heap the blame on them for Wednesday's loss.

"The players will get a lot of criticism," McClaren said. "We are all responsible, and probably deservedly so because we failed to qualify.

"But ultimately in the long run I would say everybody needs to get behind the England team. Look at the overall picture of the game and the conditions we are working in. Can they be improved?"

With the search on for his successor, McClaren insists that coaching England isn't an impossible job.

"It is a huge challenge, not a poison chalice," McClaren said. "You need to pick a man who can take the challenge on and succeed."

Under McClaren, England won nine games, lost five and drew four. His 18-game tenure was the shortest of any full-time England coach.