McClaren's England aim despite new deal at Boro

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The Independent Football

Steve McClaren signed a four-year contract with his club yesterday - but refused to rule himself out of the running to be England manager when Sven Goran Eriksson steps down after the World Cup finals.

The Middlesbrough manager also received an honourable mention from Arsenal's Arsène Wenger, who insisted yesterday that Eriksson's successor would have to be an Englishman.

McClaren, who has combined his position at Boro with the job of assistant manager for England, deflected all discussion about his suitability for the top international job. "I've just committed myself to Boro," he said. "All I'm concentrating on is just to get us up the table."

Wenger, who ruled himself out of any contention for the England job earlier this week, maintained that there was irresistible pressure on the Football Association to appoint an English successor to the Swede, and he added that McClaren had already gained valuable experience for such a role.

"I just feel that McClaren knows the job because he lives inside the job already," said Wenger, who nevertheless refrained from giving his backing to any of the domestic contenders for the job.

"I feel at this moment that England wants an Englishman in charge of the national team," he said. "Because the commitment of Sven was in question, and part of that may be due to the fact that he is not English. Before Sven was appointed, I said England is a country of 60 million people, and you must be able to find a man who can do the job."

The Arsenal manager also warned that the FA's decision to limit Eriksson's time was a "gamble" that could lead to disciplinary problems.

"Is it a risk? Yes. The main reason is that it can take some power away from him when he has to make tough decisions. It can give him some more strength to make those decisions because he knows he does not have to cope with the players any more. But in a big tournament like the World Cup that lasts a long time, it takes some power away from the manager to deal with the subs. And that is the difficult part, to keep discipline in the squad.

"Because the thing that keeps the subs quiet and going is they know after the World Cup you are still there and they still have to deal with you if they want to come back."

Manchester City's manager, Stuart Pearce, who believes he is too inexperienced to take over from Eriksson, has spoken favourably about being an assistant manager at international level. "If Steve McClaren was asked about his time with England I'm sure he would say it had been beneficial for him," Pearce said.