McClaren puts pressure on himself

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The Independent Online

England coach Steve McClaren is facing up to the biggest week of his managerial career insisting he puts more pressure on himself than he feels from an expectant nation.

Having come back into contention for a place at Euro 2008 thanks to successive three-goal wins over Israel and Russia, McClaren's team must now beat Estonia at Wembley on Saturday week, then avoid defeat on a synthetic surface in Moscow to keep the issue in their own hands heading into the final game against Croatia next month.

While Estonia should be beaten comfortably, Russia represent an entirely different challenge, no matter how poorly they performed at Wembley in September.

Indeed, the margins are so tight for McClaren that defeat could ultimately prove disastrous, not just for England's qualification hopes but also his own long-term job prospects.

Not that the former Middlesbrough manager is allowing any thoughts of failure to enter his mind as he ponders the squad he will unveil tonight.

He said: "It does not matter what level you are at, there is big pressure in football management," he said.

"But I could be managing York City, Middlesbrough or England and I would still put pressure on myself to deliver and be the best that I could be.

"The most pressure is always internal rather than external. External pressure is what you want to make it."

McClaren accepts that while international management brings a focus and a peak of interest which goes way beyond anything he would experience in a club environment, there is at least a release when the domestic action takes precedence again.

However, there will be no escape over the next couple of weeks as England try to clinch a place in Austria and Switzerland next summer. "The pressure is starting to rise now, it will peak during the two games and then for three or four days afterwards," he said.

"At club level it is constant: 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When you have delivered in one game, you have to deliver in another.

"It is not like that in international football.

"But the key difference is the environment is smaller. With a club you are only influencing a region or a set of supporters. With England you are talking millions."

Uefa is to keep its ban on artificial grass in the Euro 2008 finals despite England being made to play their qualifier against Russia on a synthetic surface.

England's match will be at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow in a fortnight, but Uefa president Michel Platini has ordered the artificial turf to be replaced with natural grass for the Champions League final at the same venue in May.