McClaren learns from experience of crisis management

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The Independent Football

Steve McClaren believes he and his players are reaping the benefits of club unity in times of crisis as they chase honours on two fronts.

The Middlesbrough manager was written off recently but his reputation is being restored and the season revived. Quarter-finals await in the Uefa and FA Cups, and Premiership safety is all but assured.

The Yorkshireman takes his side to Blackburn today with Boro looking to bounce back from defeats by Charlton and Roma, the latter a victory of sorts, of course, having dispatched the Italians on away goals. Boro were yesterday drawn to meet Basle in the last eight, the winner of the Bucharest derby between Rapid and Steaua awaiting the victors.

McClaren is again being hailed as a shrewd tactical thinker and potential successor to the England coach, Sven Goran Eriksson. "I said it a couple of months ago. I'm not that bad a manager and I'll say it now, I'm not that great a manager," he said. "You're always somewhere in between.

"I know my results and my record and what we have brought to Middlesbrough over the last five years and I'm proud of that, as I was two months ago when all the stick and criticism was flying around. But we have held our nerve and come through it and are getting the rewards for that.

"But we still haven't done anything yet. [Jimmy Floyd] Hasselbaink was first to say that. It was a great win, but our ambitions have got to be a little bit higher now."

Boro head to Charlton on Thursday looking to make the last four in the domestic competition - but it was their Premiership form which sparked criticism. A 4-0 home defeat by Aston Villa on 4 February led to angry protests, but the chairman, Steve Gibson, remained calm, and the crisis has passed with McClaren admitting he learned a lot from the experience.

"I'm very excited and very proud, but the biggest thing is, I work with good people," he said.

"It's all right when you're winning games and going well and everyone's patting you on the back. But a couple of months ago, I really found out about everybody at this football club.

"I really found who was with us and who wasn't, and what I found was I've got exceptional people around me, strong people, throughout the football club who through that time supported me and supported the team and got behind us.

"That strength from everybody at this football club brought us through. It started at the top with the support of the chairman, which was invaluable at that time, and it's all the way through.

"They can bring you close together, the bad times, and they have, and that's given us a greater determination to stick together until the end of the season."