Steve has work to do at Twente


Following on from Joey Barton putting a new emphasis on the words of Englishmen abroad (and how those words are spoken), and looking only too happy to do so, the original man of accents himself is one unhappy fellow. Steve McClaren, whose claims to fame have differed over the years from world class coach to promising manager, awful national coach and now simply ‘Schteve’, isn’t enjoying himself in the Netherlands as he used to.

A 3-0 hammering by PSV this weekend was the latest in a series of events resulting to FC Twente‘s decline after a strong start of the season.

After becoming the first FC Twente manager to win the Eredivisie in 2010, it seemed McClaren had cemented a place in Twente’s history as one of the best managers the club had ever seen. But since his return at the beginning of 2012, things haven’t been going so well. A sixth place finish in the league (after Dutch play-offs even eighth) was a six-year low and only the Fair Play Cup ensured FC Twente could compete in Europe for the 12/13 season.

McClaren could be excused for the poor season, as he had to work with a squad he hadn’t assembled himself and the lack of balance in the side, illustrated by the use of right-footed Dwight Tiendalli as a left back for most of the season. The sale of two top-assets Luuk De Jong and Ola John for a combined figure of €25 million Euros gave McClaren and his staff the means to give Twente the outlook McClaren wished for.

With a mix of creative talent (Dusan Tadic, Gutierrez), ruthless finishers (Castaignos, Bulykin), a left-footed left back (Schilder), a left-footed centre-back (Bjelland) and some extra depth (Breukers, Gyasi, Boyata) added to the squad for the new season, everything seemed in place for McClaren to regain the Eredivisie with FC Twente, especially since he already had an impressive range of players at his disposal.

With Bulgarian goalkeeper Mihaylov, Venezuelan wing back Roberto Rosales, Belgian attacking midfielder Nacer Chadli, Brazilian born but soon to be Dutch international Douglas at centre back and the talented Dutch midfielder Leroy Fer amongst others Twente appeared to have a squad to compete on all fronts.

After reaching the Europa League group stage and a six game winning streak to kick off the season it looked like that was exactly what FC Twente were doing. Of the first sixteen competitive matches, FC Twente only lost one and drew two, all in the Europa League and all without consequences.

Twente stumble

However, the thirteen matches that followed show a whole different pattern. Three wins in the league, four draws and a loss, out of the Europa League and the domestic cup. It leaves FC Twente with only one prize to compete for and that is the Eredivisie.

But with three games drawn on the trot in that competition too, Steve McClaren was facing the challenge of getting the team back on track. A 2-0 win versus ADO Den Haag in their thirtieth(!) match of the season took them top of the Eredivisie table again and it meant a true crisis was avoided, but the manner of victory was anything but reassuring.

The sterner test came last Sunday in Eindhoven, where PSV Eindhoven were looking to bounce back from their loss against Ajax. PSV couldn’t have got an easier ride however and triumphed in a comfortable manner. FC Twente might have a squad that can arguably seen as equal to PSV’s in both quality and quantity, but  the 3-0 scoreline didn’t even properly reflect PSV’s superiority, such was the difference in performance.

FC Twente are now in third place, two points behind PSV and three points ahead of number five Feyenoord.With PSV, Vitesse, Ajax and Feyenoord likely to find or keep form, FC Twente must step it up to maintain a title challenge.

Steve McClaren has a career of successes and mishits as a manager. His work as a coach at Manchester United is well-rated and his first managerial job at Middlesborough was quite a success. But after 2006, as an England-coach and managing VFL Wolfsburg and Nottingham Forest, he hasn’t done his reputation a favour.

In this period, he only found salvation with his success at Twente. If he fails to steady the ship and steer FC Twente towards a title-winning direction, that success will also become rather tainted.

Steve has work to do, to save his job and reputation as well as FC Twente’s season.

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(Photo credit: kimmiji2012 via Flickr)

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