Brooking pushes McClaren's England claims

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The Independent Football

Trevor Brooking, the Football Association's director of football development and part of the committee which will choose Sven Goran Eriksson's successor as England manager, dropped the biggest hint yet yesterday that Martin O'Neill will not be his choice and has admitted that Steve McClaren's stock has risen dramatically since Middlesbrough's Uefa Cup heroics on Thursday.

Speaking while watching his friend, the Irish golf professional Paul McGinley, playing at The Masters in Augusta, Brooking underlined his belief that the next England coach should have come through the English coaching set-up, which O'Neill has not. The three other leading contenders - McClaren, Alan Curbishley and Sam Allardyce - have all had some dealings with England, even if only at courses at the FA's base at Lilleshall.

"It would be easier from my point of view if they have come up through the system," Brooking said. "I haven't said one way or the other who would get it, but what I have said is I will support whoever has emerged through the system and is the best person. Those who have gone through the coaching system for a number of years - and there are a few - would like to feel the door is open for them. If not, some people would argue: what is the point of having that system?"

Brooking also revealed that he has been greatly impressed by McClaren, whose team recovered spectacularly from a 3-0 deficit to Basle to qualify for the Uefa Cup semi-finals. "They have had a great little flurry," he said. "Six weeks ago they had lost 4-0 to [Aston] Villa and since then they have been superb. He has got a fixture problem now, but it is a nice position to have. It was some comeback in midweek and Steve must be congratulated for it."

Boro's victory featured two telling aspects. One of the strongest criticisms of Eriksson is his failure to influence a match once it is in progress, either with a half-time rallying cry, or bold substitutions. The 2002 World Cup defeat to Brazil was a telling example.

While McClaren will never have the charisma of O'Neill, he obviously said something significant at half-time on Thursday, with Boro still needing three goals to progress. And his bold decisions to supplement his attack with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at half-time, then Massimo Maccarone, paid off in style with both scoring.

McClaren was not getting carried away yesterday. "Many people are saying flattering things about me at the moment, but I'm just concentrating on being successful with Middlesbrough," he said.

Referring to the time when Boro plunged down the table, and a season-ticket holder tore up his ticket-book in front of the dug-out, he added: "If I'm successful, then people will talk about me as they are. It's better than two months ago. But you have to go through adversity and we have. I've got to thank the players, staff, chairman and fans for sticking by me."

Brooking went on to outline the process by which the FA will pick their man, as well as the role of the chief executive, Brian Barwick. "We had a board meeting last Wednesday. Brian Barwick has seen a lot of people and has got to be comfortable he can work with whoever gets the job. He has done a lot of ferreting around. Ultimately, it will not be Brian's decision but he will play a key part. There are definitely some appointable people out there. We are happy with our shortlist. Whoever materialises I will give them help on coaching issues. But there will be a clear split between roles and there will not be management by a three-man committee. Whoever gets the England job will be picking the team and the players."

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