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Relief at last for under-fire McClaren

International football
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Steve McClaren enjoyed the rare luxury of a relaxing night watching his England side produce a professional and highly-competent display to beat Estonia in Tallinn.

McClaren has had a torrid first season in charge, and rightly so given the wretched nature of England's performances under a coach who was an underwhelming choice to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson.

Nothing, however, but credit can be aimed in the direction of McClaren and his players after they consumately dispatched a desperately limited Estonia side.

It is, however, a credit that must be placed firmly in context.

Let's not hear too many champagne corks popping.

This was Estonia, who were given a build-up that was hilariously hyped given the small matter of them not actually being able to score a goal in their Euro 2008 campaign so far.

They were almost unspeakably poor, Conference standard at best, but for McClaren and England it was a case of job done and on to the stiffer challenges ahead.

And even those of us who disagree with the recall of David Beckham, on principle after McClaren made such a landmark moment of his exclusion, must praise the former captain's performance.

Beckham enjoyed the sort of space he will never get against more serious opposition, but he delivered every time and that is always a perfect counter to any criticism.

He produced quality delivery throughout and two trademark crosses to set up second half goals for Peter Crouch and Michael Owen.

Beckham was England's best player - no argument.

The true test of this Beckham renaissance, however, will come once he is plying his trade in a lesser league before confronting quality sides such as Croatia and Russia at international level.

I still remain unconvinced about whether he will produce for England once he is in semi-retirement in America, but this is an argument for another day, and for now Beckham deserves the plaudits he will get.

McClaren was cagey about whether Beckham would be in his next squad, but there seems no way he will leave him out, despite the fact that he will lack serious football combat in Los Angeles.

One question now lurks at the back of the mind.

Will Beckham regret his decision to forsake the cutting edge of European football to throw in his lot with a country that has hardly taken the game to its heart and lacks quality players?

Beckham was the catalyst for all England's good things, and combined with the hard work of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, plus the threat of Owen and Crouch, it was all too much for Estonia.

The result was everything in Tallinn - anything less would have signalled the end of McClaren's reign.

But England's approach and professionalism ensured there was never any danger of that, so McClaren deserves his respite before the pressure is cranked up again for the visit of Israel to Wembley in September.

The other good news for McClaren was the return to goalscoring form of Owen, who will feel a whole lot better for hitting the target after the break.

Owen lives for goals and has been England's most reliable marksman for years - anything that improves his fitness, form and confidence is welcome.

England and McClaren can take stock of an eventful 12 months and gather their thoughts for the Euro 2008 campaign's resumption in September.

And the fact that they can do it on the back of a comfortable victory is good news all round.

Latest 10 comments

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posted Jun 8, 2007

This notion that Beckham will falter against bigger teams in nonsense, if you look at where his big performances have came for his club then its against quality teams. Against Sevilla he was instrumental, against Valencia he came on and set up the winning goal, In the big champions league game against Bayern he stood out way above any other player he was again brilliant. These are not poor teams. Nor poor players. Ok. OK Sevilla are a attacking team. thus giving Beckham space Valencia and Bayern have quality defenders, hes also shown himself to be priceless in tough game against teams who are dogged, such as Real Sociedad, and Deportvio (Not as dogged as they used to be but they still close players down)

No Beckham cant beat a man, nor is his tackling brilliant, but his work rate of late has been outstanding, both for club and country. If i were a defender id rather have a player running at me because at least you have the chance to stick your foot in and attempt to get the ball, once Beckham crosses that ball, then your less likely to get to it.

Beckham has never relied on pace, if he can keep himself fit and maintain a high confidence level then he atleats deserves to be called into the squad and assessed in the England training sessions. If we should know one thing about David Beckham by now its you can never write him off, because as Phils finding it will come back and make you look stupid.

He has an incredible spirit that was lacking under Sven, Hes been made to prove himself by both his coaches and in a way has played a a roll in both keeping their jobs - Particularly Don Fabio Capello

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posted Jun 9, 2007

I've been wondering where a certain 'caps lock' Dwight is. Oh I think I've figured it out. He's busy gobbling loads of humble pie!!

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comment by kasbah (U3254321)

posted Jun 9, 2007

he delivered 2 balls throughout the game that resulted in goals, not necessarily because of the quality of the crosses (one bounced before it got to Crouch!), but because of the appalling defence of a totally outclassed Estonia team
but the cross would have been useless if it had landed on crouch's head. the best ball was to play it in front of him so he could head it whilst a bit closer to goal. also gave crouch time to pick his spot. the best cross isn't always one that lands right on someones head!

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comment by kasbah (U3254321)

posted Jun 9, 2007

So your criteria for judging MLS as semi-retirement is because it lacks a world-class player? Would you have said that Beckham was going into semi-retirement and playing Conference-level footy, if he had, say, gone to Celtic? (You know, that team that lost a friendly to an MLS team by the score of 4-0.)
yes they lost a FRIENDLY!!!! bear in mind that when we are playing pre-season friendlies the MLS is in full flow so they are match sharp whereas the british teams are not. add in that celtic were just using the game as a warm up. and chelsea also lost to an MLS team, are you suggesting that on that basis alone the MLS is much better than the premiership?

the reasons why this is effectively retirement from international football are that the quality of football is much lower in the USA, you wouldn't pick beckham if he had gone to League 1 would you? beckham will not be playing with the same world class players he does at madrid, the Galaxy players may not have the same vision as madrids to see what beckham will be intending. to an extent beckham relies on the strikers reading his intentions in a way that top strikers can.

also, the travelling distances. he is on the west coast of the USA, a full 8/9 hour time difference from us! he will need to account for this when travelling to the UK and then need to fly back for an MLS game. and can you imagine if he travelled for the Russia game away?! thats another 5 hour time difference on top of that! he will be arriving thinking it's 5:30 am when it is in fact 5pm (random numbers i've selected, don't know exact difference in time or how long it takes to fly all that way)

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posted Jun 9, 2007

I strongly object to your characteristcs of US
football. Beckham in semiretirement? How old are you Mr. McNulty, 6 years old? The US national team have been in the quarter finals in the WC twice in my recent memory.AND the majority of the players there are pretty much playing in US teams, unlike the Brazilians who have more of their top players playing in Europe. England haven't been too good in the WC of late either, does that mean that the Brits have forgotten how to play football or have no talent for the game any longer? I don't think so. I long for the day when,in the not too distant future, we will see England vs. USA in the finals of the WC, part of which Beck's will be responsible for, as an inspiration to young talents in America. Athlets in the USa are more professional than you give them credit for, and football IS an up and coming sport over there and will only get better and not be a holiday for Beck's, be sure of that. I'd like to add a smily but am actually fuming a bit. Have a nice day.

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posted Jun 9, 2007

Well said. Many Brits have an extemely narrow-minded view of America and its football. Even Butcher and Hoddle were comparing it to the conference. CLOWNS! The argument about air travel is too laughable to believe that a news organization would publish it, but there it is. The only thing that really matters is if Beckham can perform for England. As Lampard said, 'he could be playing with his mates in the park', and he would still make the team.

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posted Jun 10, 2007

Would be interesting to know how many of the 'expert' posters on here are actually involved in football coaching or management at any level, let alone professionally.

And the incredible prevalence of the phrases 'could of' and 'would of' gives some indication of the educational and intellectual capacity of many posters.

Criticism of Mcclaren mostly boils down to him favouring players other than the posters' own current personal favourite, which is basically inane.

Had Scolari or Hiddink dropped Beckham to give him a much needed kick in the pants, then brought him back when his form permitted to make the impact he has done, they would have been hailed as management geniuses. McClaren does it and he's crucified for making a 'bad' decision originally and being weak for changing his mind!

The guy can't win with the muppets who 'support' England on here (in the loosest sense of the word)

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comment by Hobbsy (U8166493)

posted Jun 10, 2007

I am also fed up with the belittling of the MLS. It is probably more exciting than the Premiership, ok the standard may be poorer but the games are probably closer and not so one-sided. Look at our league, apart from the odd shock result a lot of the matches involving the top 4 are routine wins for the richer clubs. I would rather have a poorer quality premiership if the matches were not so predictable (though some of the games between the other sixteen clubs are very exciting.)
Another point is that the England team should follow the lead of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Treat every win as a good result, no matter who the opposition are so this might make defeats slightly easier to bear and the wins more enjoyable. I take this outlook when watching Leicester. Appreciate the wins more when they happen.

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posted Jun 13, 2007

im sorry i seem to have forgotten who finished 3rd in the world cup in japan and korea????? oh thats right USA........the league cant be that bad compared with its english counterparts that finished....well lets just say below 3rd.

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posted Jun 14, 2007

All this first class air travel with beds and luxury facilities... must be murder for Becks.....

Anyone would think hes gonna be packed on an easyjet economy flight

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