Ferguson offers warm tribute to his 'progressive' former assistant

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The Independent Online

He may lack the experience, the European Cup and the nine-in-a-row credentials of Jock Stein, the man Sir Alex Ferguson credits as the ideal international coach on the basis of his Scottish roots as much as his successes with Celtic, but Steve McClaren received a warm tribute from his former Manchester United mentor upon his appointment as England manager yesterday.

Ferguson dismissed concerns that McClaren has not been tested at the highest level to welcome the Football Association's decision, although he admitted that no one in football is prepared for the unique pressures of the England manager's job.

"It's a good appointment," Ferguson said. "He has served a good apprenticeship at Derby, with myself here and during his five years at Middlesbrough, which is a good period for anyone to manage a club and in that time he's won the League Cup and hopefully he'll add to that with the Uefa Cup next week. He has the experience of working in the goldfish bowl at Old Trafford and with top players at this club and that will serve him well with England, although the pressure on that job is a different matter altogether. I don't know if anyone is ever ready for that kind of thing."

It was Ferguson who gave McClaren his break into the upper echelons of English football when he poached Jim Smith's right-hand man from Derby County during United's treble-winning campaign of 1999.

He added: "Steve's always had visions of developing things and is very advanced in terms of technology. I spoke to a few people at Derby before he came here and they all said he was a very progressive coach. When he left there I consoled Jim over a glass of wine and he said the same. He's young, he is just on the right side of youth and maturity. Jock Stein was the perfect example of an international manager. He had done it all, he was the right age, but you won't get another one like Jock.

"That experience isn't available in this country at the moment so you have to look at other coaches and I thought there were three strong candidates in Steve, Sam Allardyce and Alan Curbishley. They all have strong credentials."

* Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson last night attacked the FA's selection process after his club's manager was finally named England head coach. Gibson criticised the time the FA has taken over the appointment and also questioned Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein's role on the selection committee, adding: "The structure of the FA makes their life difficult. They have to be more professional. The process has taken so long. Has it damaged our club? Definitely."

The verdict: Thumbs-up for McClaren from within the game...

David O'Leary Manager, Aston Villa

'Steve knows all the players. There is no one better placed to decide after the World Cup who is at the end of the road, who needs to be brought along, who needs to be brought in, etc. It is a youngish team and those players know what Steve is all about.'

Gordon Taylor Chief Executive, Professional Footballers' Association

'Steve McClaren has got the most experience. The only worry is that the FA might have made themselves hostages to fortune because if things don't go well during the World Cup there may be a clamour for change.'

Howard Wilkinson Former FA Technical Director

'He has the experience that is necessary not only for a club manager. He's been to three major championships - no one will come into this job better prepared. I would expect Steve, despite the pressure, to fulfil his responsibilities as he has done up to now.'

Jermain Defoe Striker, Tottenham Hotspur

'It is great news and I am so happy for him... Everyone knows he is an unbelievable coach with some great ideas. His communication skills are excellent - when he has an idea he is able to explain it very well to the players. I really do think he is the right guy.'

... but fans remain sceptical

Tracy Campbell Financial Services Manager (Arsenal)

'I'm glad it's an Englishman and I'm glad it's him. I think he's a good choice because he's been supporting Sven Goran Eriksson as No 2 for a long time and therefore he knows the players, the set-up and has got experience of international management.'

Gareth Barker IT Analyst (Tottenham Hotspur)

'I'm devastated. If he can only take Middlesborough to 13th in the Premiership he shouldn't be England manager. He has only bought lots of prima donnas on high wages at Middlesbrough. I would have rather had Martin O'Neill or Sam Allardyce.'

Martin Tyrrell Systems Analyst (Southend United)

'He just hasn't got the experience in things like the Champions' League. I just don't think he's really got the quality we need. It's a shame about Luiz Scolari - but I think Sam Allardyce would have done a better job than McClaren.'

Rimon Choudhary College Student (Man Utd)

'I don't want Steve McClaren as England manager because I think he's crap. I just don't like the way he manages, that's it. I'd rather have seen Sam Allardyce appointed - I like him, he's good. I'd definitely gone for Allardyce over McClaren.'

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