It’s often said that the second time isn’t as good as the first – and so it’s proved for Steve McClaren. His second spell as Twente coach officially came to an end on Tuesday morning, as he fell on his sword after a ropey run of results saw the Enschede side toppled from the Eredivisie summit in recent weeks.
The signs of the situation coming to a head were already apparent last week, after Twente could only draw with bottom side Willem II.
Talking television viewers through another disappointment post-match, poor old Steve reverted to his David Brent-esque worst, labouring through an excruciatingly laboured series of sea-faring metaphors to describe his team’s tricky situation for the internet’s future amusement.
”It’s the middle of a storm,” he blustered, “and we're in the eye of it and we have to keep going on, paddle and get through this storm.”
The interviewer - either sucked in by McClaren’s faux charisma or simply an evil wind-up merchant – responded in kind. “I don't want to be too negative,” the journo said, “but in a storm….sometimes, well, people - they drown."
McClaren nodded earnestly, taking it in his stride. "That's exactly right,” he said, “and those who drown they don't deserve to stay on the ship. I've said 'we stay on the boat, we stay together, we keep fighting.”
It was McClaren who ended up being flung overboard this week, with Twente’s loss at Heerenveen on Saturday leaving them still without a win in six Eredivisie games in 2013.
Having been joint top at the winter break, they are now down in fifth place, six points adrift – quite an achievement in an extraordinarily scatty title race that is featuring more stumbles than kicking out time on a Friday night.
McClaren’s return in January 2012 had been welcomed by fans, but doubts quickly crept in. One of his first acts was to controversially sanction the sale of top scorer Marc Janko to Porto, explaining that the rangy Austrian didn’t fit the style of play that he had in mind. Twente crawled to a deflating sixth-placed finish.
The Englishman was well backed by chairman Joop Munsterman in the transfer market, bringing in a clutch of players including Groningen’s Serbian midfielder Dusan Tadic and the highly-rated young striker Luc Castaignos from Inter.
Yet despite McClaren’s aim of a fluid approach, Twente had become a dour watch, quickly making his position untenable when the results dried up. A change right now is probably best for all - despite the poor run, Twente’s campaign is not unsalvageable. A win against Ajax on Saturday night at De Grolsch Veste would take them to within a point of the reigning champions.
The real question must be where does McClaren go from here? A career can survive one wrong turn, but he has made a series of bad moves – he lacked the authority to succeed at Wolfsburg, admitted himself that he took the Nottingham Forest job on the rebound (after losing out on the Aston Villa post) and has now come up short at Twente, where his stock was highest.
It would be a shame if a man who is, in truth, an excellent coach was remembered for his PR shortcomings rather than what he actually has to offer to the game.
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