Steve McClaren finally arrived as the successor to Sven Goran Eriksson as England manager yesterday with the promise that he will win over those fans who have condemned his appointment. But the day threatened to be overshadowed by the Football Association's confused explanation of the bungled Luiz Felipe Scolari affair.
The media training and the expensive dental work paid off nicely for McClaren in the end. He negotiated his way through the ferocious scrum of photographers outside the FA's Soho Square headquarters with a smile and the announcement that he was "the proudest man in England" to be given a four-year contract worth £3m annually that starts after the World Cup finals on 1 August.
He may not even have been the FA's first choice, let alone the supporters, but McClaren did not shirk from approaching the issue of his current unpopularity. "That's people's opinions, and opinions are what are great about football," he said. "I am results-orientated to win football matches and want to make sure that England in the next four years win a major trophy. If I can do that and I am successful then I am sure my popularity will rise."
He said he did not view himself as second choice behind Scolari, instead preferring to say that "I'm the choice of the FA". "Sometimes in business or sport you don't get the first choice," he added, "but what matters is that I am the England manager now." How he came to be that man was the subject of some debate, but McClaren, 45, claimed that he had paid little attention to the extraordinary public announcement Scolari made one week ago to withdraw himself from the running, so busy was the Middlesbrough manager with his club. If that was difficult to believe then you sympathised when he said there were things he "didn't want to know" about the FA and Scolari - the basic truth that the Brazilian was the FA's first choice.
Instead, the England manager in waiting faces, in his own words, "the biggest game in Middlesbrough's history" when they play Seville in the Uefa Cup final next Wednesday in Eindhoven. He described international footballers as "different animals" to club players. "They want to win and they want a person in charge who can help them to win," McClaren said.
He added: "I've got the knowledge, the experience. I have worked with the top players and I think that's essential for this job. It does not guarantee success but I have the confidence of working with the top players and knowing what it takes to win."
As assistant to Eriksson he said he knew and understood what the job entails, and that would include the scrutiny to which the Swede's private life has been subjected. The recent disclosures about McClaren's affair with a woman who works for Middlesbrough have shown him how unforgiving his new position will be but he laid down a clear marker for the future. "I hope you respect that my private life is private and I won't discuss it," he said.
The issue of whether David Beckham will remain captain after the World Cup finals was avoided by McClaren although he pointedly did not make any assurances that the 31-year-old would stay in the role. "It's something I don't want to discuss at the moment," McClaren said. "We have got a World Cup coming up and he is captain at the moment." With an awkward public signing of his contract, and the tacit admission that he was not the first choice, it was a reasonable performance from McClaren. His philosophical attitude towards his place in the pecking order behind Scolari made the stance of the FA's chief executive, Brian Barwick, all the more baffling.
The public examination of his appointment procedure was clearly a day that Barwick was dreading. However, he did not make life any easier for himself by insisting that "my first choice was Steve" and denying that any offer had been made to Scolari. He admitted to three meetings with the Brazilian. He said he was a "terrific man" and he even admitted discussing with Scolari "elements of his potential involvement" - but he would not admit to offering him the job.
In the end, it came down to a technicality. Barwick claimed that because the main FA board had never been asked to approve Scolari's appointment, he was never formally offered the job. It was interesting to hear that, when asked, McClaren believed he was offered the job on Tuesday - also before the FA board had approved it.
There is no doubt that Scolari had accepted the FA's provisional offer last Wednesday. Barwick would simply not admit that his first-choice candidate had turned him down. "He [McClaren] will only be viewed by you as the second choice," Barwick said.
Apart from that, Barwick did a good job of selling McClaren for the role, talking about the "two fantastic interviews" that the Middlesbrough manager had given. Barwick admitted that he had met with Arsène Wenger as well who had told him he wished to stay in club football. "We spent some time in a conversation about the qualities needed in an England coach," Barwick said. "He saw a lot of them in Steve." What would he have done if Wenger had been available. "Ifs and buts and maybes," Barwick replied.
Barwick admitted to meeting Martin O'Neill "several times" and "thoroughly enjoyed his company", but he declined to explain why the former Celtic manager had never really been in the running despite popular support. He announced that McClaren's first game in charge of England will be 16 August against European champions, Greece, at Old Trafford.
McClaren's kick-off: England games 2006-07
Wednesday 16 Aug 2006 Friendly, England v Greece
Saturday 2 September Euro 2008 qualifier, England v Andorra
Wednesday 6 September Euro 2008 qualifier, Macedonia v England
Saturday 7 October Euro 2008 qualifier, England v Macedonia
Wednesday 11 October Euro 2008 qualifier, Croatia v England
Wednesday 15 November Friendly, Netherlands v England
Saturday 24 March 2007 Euro 2008 qualifier, Israel v England
Wednesday 28 March Euro 2008 qualifier, Andorra v England
Wednesday 6 June Euro 2008 qualifier, Estonia v England
Saturday 8 September Euro 2008 qualifier, England v Israel
Wednesday 12 September Euro 2008 qualifier, England v Russia
Saturday 13 October Euro 2008 qualifier, England v Estonia
Wednesday 17 October Euro 2008 qualifier, Russia v England
Wednesday 21 November Euro 2008 qualifier, England v CroatiaReuse content