Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: McClaren Hits out at England

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: McClaren Hits out at England

Article excerpt

Byline: By Matt Barlow

STEVE McClaren promised straight-talking and he did not hold back as he delivered a brutally honest assessment of England's performance against Macedonia.

McClaren was angrier with the performance than the 0-0 scoreline. He accused his players of poor passing, poor crossing and poor finishing and demanded an instant improvement in Croatia on Wednesday.

McClaren said: "I think there was enough effort but there wasn't our usual quality.

"Our passing wasn't as fluid. Our final ball wasn't there or the finish. We failed to score.

"I always go on performance and it was a disappointing performance and a frustrating one and I didn't need to tell the players.

"You could see that in their faces and in their eyes. They knew it.

"This is one time when we feed back to the players on reflection, on looking at the game and being brutally honest about our deficiencies in that performance.

"The biggest words were frustrated and disappointed."

McClaren was also ready to concede that Wayne Rooney was having problems finding his form after six months of injuries and suspensions.

Rooney had one shot saved by Macedonia's excellent keeper Jane Nikolovski, in the second half, but was subdued at Old Trafford.

He was taken off as England pressed for a winner and replaced by Jermain Defoe, 15 minutes from time.

McClaren said: "Nobody is more frustrated than Wayne Rooney. He is below his usual performances, everybody can see that, but Wayne's got the resilience and the character we have to show as a team ."

Rooney's last goal in a competitive England game came against Croatia in the group stage of Euro 2004 in Portugal. He scored twice as Sven-GUran Eriksson's team won 4-2 in Lisbon but has only found the net twice for his country since then - both in friendlies.

Rooney's barren spell for England stretches back to the victory over Argentina, in November last year, but it is not only his lack of goals which is causing concern. He has made little impact in his recent international games.

McClaren insists Rooney is an automatic choice as long as he is fit but the England boss has told all his players to deliver more in Zagreb and drag the qualification campaign on track. …

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