John Dobson1 Comment

STEVE MCCLAREN: NEVER GO BACK?

John Dobson1 Comment

It's never as good the second time round - a motto to live your life by. What lies in wait if Steve McClaren does return to FC Twente?

At time of writing, it seems it's very much on the cards. FC Twente are about to dispense with the services of Co Adriaanse and possibly re-hire Steve McClaren. After winning the Eredivisie with the club, McClaren hasn't had the happiest of times either in Germany or back in England, but his stock remains high in Enschede and that, coupled with his availibility, makes him an easy choice for Twente chairman Joop Munsterman to replace the abrasive Adriaanse.

Abrasive is the appropriate word; you don't acquire the nickname "Psycho Co" without being so. His training methods have at times been bizarre, bordering on if not the psychopathic, then certainly the sociopathic. Frankly, it's a surprise that his approach has taken until now to seriously antagonise the FC Twente players, a core of senior members of which took their concerns to the board along with members of the coaching staff.

While Adriaanse will no doubt take out his frustrations on another set of unsuspecting players, what lies in store for McClaren should he return to De Grolsch Veste? The club has remained a fixture at the top end of the table since Fred Rutten arrived in 2006 and became part of a 'big five' as opposed to the three-way hegemony that the Eredivisie had been to that point. McClaren built on Rutten's work despite losing some key players and more have departed since.

McClaren's immediate successor, Michel Preud-homme, came within 40 minutes of retaining the title, but did win the cup playing a brand of football consistent with that of the Rutten and McClaren eras. Again, players departed and so did Preud'homme, to Al-Shabab in Saudi Arabia. From the side that McClaren guided to the championship, gone are Bryan Ruiz, Theo Janssen, Miroslav Stoch, Cheik Tioté, Kenneth Perez and the talismanic Blaise N'Kufo. Instead, successive managers have overseen the development of Roberto Rosales, Luuk de Jong, Nacer Chadli, Emir Bajrami and Ola John into real quality players and the addition of experienced Eredivisie campaigners like Denny Landzaat and Tim Cornelisse has seen the club able to maintain it's position among the front-runners despite the constant sales that the club must make in order to continue.

The club sit third during this winter break, five points behind leaders AZ, which isn't a disaster having only lost twice in the first half of the campaign. They went into the break just struggling for momentum though, knocked out of the cup by PSV, beaten in the league by a resurgent Feyenoord and beaten in the Europa League by Wisla Krakov, though only after they'd sealed top spot in their group. There were a couple of dispiriting draws in there too, away to local rivals Heracles and at home to Vitesse. Fundamentally though, FC Twente remains a well-run club and the ingredients are there for on-field success.

McClaren's reputation took a bit of a battering at Nottingham Forest from an unforgiving British press and public. That's not so in the Netherlands where he was being touted to replace the outgoing Rutten once again, this time at PSV, and he's always linked with jobs in Germany where he also retains good standing as the debacle at Wolfsburg is widely seen as not being down to him and the subsequent travails of Pierre Littbarski and Felix Magath bear that out.

Magath also provides testimony to the theory that one should never go back, but there's more of an air of stability at Twente than at Wolfsburg and the personal bonds that McClaren built up in Enschede, particularly with the affable Munsterman, remain strong. Perhaps the biggest difference now is the level of expectation. No longer are Twente a club content to be top four. They are set up to be fighting for silverware and McClaren is now a proven winner in Dutch football, not the relatively untested quantity he was in 2009. Conversely, it's not the voyage into the unknown for McClaren either, so there's expectation on both sides that he'll be able to step in and make an immediate impact.

After the issues at Wolfsburg and Forest, comfortable surroundings will no doubt be welcome for McClaren. He'll have a tight group of players, unlike Wolfsburg, and a board which will not promise everything and deliver nothing, unlike Forest. It's a move set up to succeed, but succeed it must for the sake of McClaren's career.

You can follow John on Twitter @dobsonjp.

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