Barwick defends McClaren over poor recent form

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The Independent Football

Brian Barwick, the Football Association's chief executive, yesterday defended Steve McClaren's appointment as England manager and denied his organisation had been "sluggish" in finding a successor to Sven Goran Eriksson.

Speaking at a sport business conference in London, Barwick agreed England's recent performances had been below par after a promising start to McClaren's reign, but claimed it was too early to judge Eriksson's former assistant. "He's settling into the job really well," said Barwick.

"The last couple of results have been disappointing, but Steve is a very bright man. We were accused of being sluggish and tortuous, yet we were recruiting a significant, serious, senior member of our industry." Barwick added: "From beginning to end the process took nine weeks. In many other industries that would be considered reckless, so I guess you can't win."

He rejected the suggestion that too many foreign players in the Premiership were adversely affecting the quality of the national team. "We have to make sure there is a good flow of young English players. We have a real responsibility to the game to do that. But I would say the best English players have benefited from playing with some of the best players in the world."

Turning to Wembley stadium, which should be ready for this season's FA Cup final, Barwick said there had been "a right journey" to get the national arena up and running, but said it was time to put criticism aside. "This is a stadium that will host events for the next 50 or 60 years and we should be proud of it. There is no doubt it will be the best stadium of its kind in the world."

Barwick repeated the FA's intention to bid for the 2018 World Cup following the failed attempt to secure last summer's tournament which went instead to Germany. "If 2018 is the year it comes back to Europe we will go for it," Barwick said, before joking: "We've got great stadiums - even Wembley, if it's finished by then."

Finally, he hinted he was getting closer to persuading the Scottish and Wales FAs to support a British team for the London Olympics. Both associations are worried about losing their identities in world football if they join forces with England and Northern Ireland. But Barwick said: "We believe there are enough reassurances from Fifa to make identity a non-issue. We would like to put a British side out."

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