McClaren faces final hurdle as he aims to make Twente history

Euro Zone

The renaissance of the English football manager could continue tomorrow as Steve McClaren's Twente go in search of a victory that would win them the Dutch Eredivisie title.

After Roy Hodgson led Fulham to the Europa League final, McClaren could book his place in next season's Champions League if his side can match whatever result Martin Jol's Ajax manage in the last game in the Dutch league.

There will be no fancy Premier-League style helicopter hovering between grounds, so with Twente top with a point more than Ajax, the genuine silverware will be at the Rat Verlegh Stadium for their game against NAC Breda. And a copy of the trophy will be at the Goffertstadion where Ajax play NEC Nijmegen, just in case Twente slip up.

McClaren knows all about falling at the final hurdle: he was, of course, the hapless rain-drenched manager who looked forlornly on as the England team were beaten by Croatia 3-2 at Wembley in November 2007, ensuring that they failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Twente will not have it easy against a NAC Breda side who can still get into the qualifying rounds of next season's Europa League if they can pick up the three points.

McClaren's opponents will also have a massive financial incentive to do Ajax a favour. In the Netherlands it is not illegal to offer other teams a cash bonus to win their matches and Ajax have all but confirmed they plan to pay NAC Breda if they can beat Twente and deny them the title.

Dutch neutrals have been split by an historic allegiance to the country's most famous and most popular club and a soft spot for McClaren who is seen as an English gentleman of the game in much the same way that Bobby Robson, the last English coach to win a league abroad with Porto in 1996, was viewed when he coached PSV.

Ajax have a vastly superior goal difference, boosted by having scored 102 goals in 33 matches so far this season and conceded only 19. But without being anywhere near as spectacular, Twente have been ruthlessly efficient, losing just two games all season. A win tomorrow would be the first trophy in the club's history and be very bad news for fallen giants Ajax, who, by contrast with their rivals, have won 29 Dutch titles and been champions of Europe on four occasions.

Second place in the Netherlands condemns a side to two daunting knock-out rounds before the Champions League proper begins. Twente were runners-up last year but could not get past Sporting Lisbon, who in turn failed to beat Fiorentina, underling the intense nature of the competition before the group stages of Europe's premier competition have even begun.

Not contesting the European Cup is a fate fans are desperate to avoid because they know a lack of Champions League football next season would probably see the Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez move on in the summer, although Jol is expected to stay, with the club keen for him to build on a spectacular second half of the season and not be compelled to change coaches for a sixth time in the last four years.

Winning the league would put McClaren, who will be 49 on Monday, back on the radar of a host of English clubs although the lure of leading Twente into their first-ever Champions League campaign might be too much to walk away from.

Messi aims to bounce back on tough trip for Barça

Barcelona take their fragile one-point lead over Real Madrid to Villarreal tonight, a venue where they have lost five of their last seven encounters. Leo Messi, who hasn't scored for three games, will be looking for his first goal against a side who need a win themselves to secure a European place for next season.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas