McClaren considers his options after completing his renaissance
Twente's unlikely title triumph transforms Englishman's prospects. Sam Wallace reports
Tuesday 04 May 2010
Steve McClaren was still celebrating FC Twente's unprecedented victory in the Dutch championship yesterday and it now looks likely that the former England manager will give his club the chance to show him they are serious about investing before he listens to any offers from other clubs.
McClaren, 49 yesterday, has become one of European football's most sought-after coaches after winning the Dutch title with a club from outside the ruling elite of Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord for only the sixth time in 54 years. Yet with clubs such as Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Sporting Lisbon and West Ham all interested, McClaren is prepared to listen to Twente first.
He is expected to speak to the club's owner, Joop Munsterman, a newspaper magnate, later this week to discuss plans for next season, in which Twente will automatically qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. Should the club's ambitious owner be able to guarantee that key players will not be sold and transfer funds will be available, McClaren will be tempted to stay.
Despite the interest from Wolfsburg, and the promise that they will announce their new manager later this week, McClaren has agreed nothing with the Bundesliga team and is not likely to talk over his options with advisers until later in the week. Among his Eredivisie-winning team, players such as Bryan Ruiz, Douglas and Ronnie Stam are already attracting the attention of bigger clubs.
Munsterman has outlined his intention to keep McClaren, who has one year on his contract, for at least another season. In a slightly tortured analogy he said that McClaren was now Twente's bus driver and would lead the way next season. "Steve is an idol here in Holland," Munsterman said. "He is every inch a gentleman and he always compliments the opposition. Everyone likes him. He is a wise man.
"[To other clubs seeking to poach McClaren] Stay away please! You have bus drivers in England and now Steve is the bus driver and we are sitting on the bus and waiting to see what the driver is doing. We hope like [the managers] at Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool he will stay for a long time. Everyone in Holland wants him to stay because of the job he did in Enschede.
"We expected him to do it because we saw at Middlesbrough he worked with a young team. Of course, the national team of England was a difficult job – but it is always a difficult job."
Two and a half years after his England team failed to qualify for Euro 2008, McClaren was the toast of Twente yesterday, the eastern, largely rural, Dutch province which his club represents. On Sunday night, the 60,000 crowd celebrating in the centre of the town of Enschede, where Twente are based, had become so large that police prevented any more people from coming in.
Fewer than a thousand Twente fans were in the NAC Breda stadium to watch their side clinch the title with a 2-0 win but 20,000 alone watched the game in the club's Grolsch Veste stadium. There were more watching it on screens in Enschede and when the team coach came back from Breda – the players switched to an open-top bus for the end of the trip – the crowds were so big that it took them six hours for a journey that usually takes two.
Proving he is more than capable of organising the proverbial celebration in a brewery, McClaren and his players had their first party in the Grolsch beer factory when they returned to Enschede. Last night they were due to appear at the stadium to parade the trophy and the club were expecting another full house.
The regional newspaper, De Twentsche Courant Tubantia, heralded the victory with a front-page picture of McClaren sitting on the shoulders of his players and holding the trophy aloft. The newspaper's headline was "We Hebben 'm"– "We've got it!" Twente and their underdog status have become the story in Dutch football this season.
The catchphrase that has attached itself to McClaren's triumph has been "more than a miracle", which were his own words in the aftermath of the victory over Breda. McClaren said: "I think last year they brought out a book about our season [when Twente finished second and lost in the Dutch cup final] called 'It's a miracle'. To win the championship is more than a miracle.
"We have done it from the front. We have been first or second throughout the season. We have only lost two games – that's incredible. We have 86 points and for Ajax to get 85 points and still not win it is incredible. They chased us all the way. We were always under pressure and I have got to say that the mentality of the players was unbelievable.
"Every week they had to win and every week they did the job. We have grown in the last two years and this is the reward for the players and for Joop."
How McClaren did it
*Steve McClaren led FC Twente to the title in his second season at the club, giving the Tukkers a first Eredivise title in their 45-year history. Martin Jol's Ajax pushed them until the last day but came up short, despite hitting a century of goals and winning their last 14 games.
*Twente went unbeaten for the first 21 games of the season, and were top for the final nine weeks of the campaign. Bryan Ruiz topped the scoring charts for Twente with 24 goals, 11 short of Ajax forward Luis Suarez.
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