Cloud Hangs over McClaren

Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), September 27, 2005 | Go to article overview

Cloud Hangs over McClaren


Fans' talk about boss's future throws a shadow over Boro's big season

THERE was only one name being muttered in the underpasses by the simmering crowds fleeing the scene of the Sunderland disaster.

Actually, there were two if you include some blunt industrial assessments of Steve McClaren's managerial abilities, future employment prospects and hair colouring by the disgruntled diehards.

Tony Mowbray is now being openly touted by a growing faction as the next Boro boss as the already widespread antagonism towards the current incumbent becomes more entrenched and overt.

He will bring passion, goes the theory. He knows what a derby game is all about. He would instill steel and fire. He will know how to relate to fans.

Of course Mogga may not even want the poisoned chalice. The former inspirational skipper has spoken shrewdly in the past of not wanting his excellent relationship with the Boro crowd to be tainted by the boos and bad-mouthing that is inevitable with any manager in the pressure-cooker modern game. And you can't blame him.

He may not even be ready yet after only one full season - albeit a successful one - in Scotland with Hibernian.

And besides, there isn't even a vacancy to talk about. The Mowbray bandwagon appears ridiculously premature.

But the fact that iconic Mogga is being so openly bandied about and his considerable emotional weight is being used as a weapon to beat McClaren is a deeply worrying sign for the coming season.

As was the booing that accompanied McClaren's fruitless trips to the technical area as the second half imploded.

That had dark echoes of the last year under Bryan Robson when the hostile voices were making themselves heard at every opportunity.

Bad results - and a home derby defeat to a relegation bound side that had taken just one point from 63 - will force more and more to take sides against the boss while good results like Arsenal or Birmingham will not have the same compelling effect of recruitment to the loyalists.

To an outsider such bitter divisions must seem bizarre.

On the face of it Steve McClaren should be sitting pretty and securely in his dugout.

On Thursday Boro go to Xanthi two goals up in a game that should book a place in the UEFA group stage, a reward for a first ever European qualification through the league, an admirable achievement engineered by McClaren.

That follows reaching the last 16 in their UEFA Cup debut, a Euro dream that came when Boro won their first ever major trophy with McClaren, an honour that eluded legends like Charlton and Rioch. …

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