Derby County manager Steve McClaren admits England scars

Pain of national team failure still hurts high-flying Derby manager but, he tells Richard Rae, it was part of a learning process

On the day of the 2014 World Cup draw, Steve McClaren can talk about his experience as England manager with a certain equanimity. That he is able to do so, he adds with the awareness of one accustomed to criticism, is more a function of the passage of time than in any transformation he is effecting in the fortunes of Derby County.

“England left its scars and you have to get over that as an individual,” he says. “Many people forget and move on, but it’s still there. I went abroad and had great experiences and lost myself for a couple of years, but I wanted to come back to England, not to restore my reputation, purely to coach.

“Now I’m just getting on with my job. Through experience I know it’s not the lows that count, it’s how you come back from them, and that’s the message we are passing on to the team here, that we will have disappointments but you just have to get back on the horse. That’s what I’ve done each time and hopefully with success here at Derby.”

In that respect, McClaren appears to have come to terms with the fact his 18 games in charge of the national side, incorporating as they did a miserable failure to qualify for Euro 2008, will probably always  colour people’s opinions of his abilities.

Harder to gainsay, however, are his achievements in domestic football, though it does not stop many trying. Thus the Yorkshireman had little to do with Manchester United winning five major trophies, including the Champions League in 1999, during his time as assistant manager to Alex Ferguson. Winning the League Cup with Middlesbrough and taking the Teesside club to a Uefa Cup final in 2006 was down to chairman Steve Gibson funding a series of expensive acquisitions. He may have guided FC Twente to their first ever Dutch league title, but he failed at Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest and then on his return to Twente. And so on.

Even now at Derby, where the Rams have won six and drawn one of the eight games they have played since he took over, and moved from 14th to fourth in the Championship, success is being achieved on the back of the work done by former manager Nigel Clough.

Statistics, however, suggest otherwise. Clough’s Derby may have been the division’s top scorers but they conceded goals for fun. McClaren and assistants Paul Simpson and Eric Steele have tightened them up at the back to such effect that in the last four games, all of which have been won, they have conceded only twice.

“Goalscoring is clearly a strength and it comes from different areas, it’s not just one player getting them all, which is a huge thing,” says McClaren. “But we were in the bottom three for conceding and you achieve nothing when you do that, so we’ve tried to address that, to get the balance right.

“As of late we’ve been defending well and that’s the platform. Even in a poor game against Middlesbrough on Wednesday we got that right, while at the same time playing enough football to win.”

“The change [in management] was a big shock for the players, they’ve been asked to adapt very quickly, and to their credit they’ve done that. They’ve taken on board what we’ve asked of them and they deserve all the credit.”

While most Rams supporters would be happy with a play-off place, the rapidity of recent progress has led others to start talking of automatic promotion.  McClaren says he understands the “buzz”, but the nature of the Championship should make everyone cautious.

“We’re nowhere near that stage, absolutely nowhere near. All clubs in this division are capable of going on a run and then falling away, and Derby County have been the same. It’s an inconsistent division and we’re trying to provide and build consistency. If we’re still in this position in March and April, then you can say we are genuine contenders.”

Noting yesterday’s World Cup draw, his reaction tended to the practical. “I was fortunate to do 2002 in Japan [as assistant to Sven Goran Eriksson] when we were based in Kobe for the majority of the tournament, which was a big help.

“Then for the quarter-final [against Brazil] we had to go to Tokyo, it was a full day’s travel and we never recovered from it. At the start of the second half we had no energy.

“There are many facets to a World Cup,  but the one thing I know is the [England] organisation will be top, no detail will be missed. Roy [Hodgson] will have no qualms about that, it’s purely managing the players as individuals, and the team, the energy and their attitudes.”

Which is where his critics will say McClaren fell down, with England at least. At Derby, as experienced defender Richard Keogh acknowledges, the McClaren touch is proving altogether more astute.

“We always had quality in the group brought together by the former manager, and he recognised that. He’s explained where we can improve, changed a few little things, and it’s come together well.”

Well travelled: Mcclaren’s career

1979 Joins Hull from school

1992 Retires after spells with Derby, Bristol City and Oxford 1995 Returns to Derby as assistant to Jim Smith, helping them reach the Premier League

1999 Becomes Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United 2000 Takes on role as coach with England

2001 Moves to Middlesbrough, leading club to 2004 League Cup and 2006 Uefa Cup final

2006 Replaces Sven Goran Eriksson as England manager

2007 Sacked after failing to reach Euro 2008 (below)

2008 Appointed Twente manager, leading them to the title

2010 Takes over at Wolfsburg, but only lasts nine months

2011 Unsuccessful stint at Nottingham Forest before returning to Twente for 13 months

2013 Takes over at Derby

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor