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England favourite McClaren faces early pressure

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Apr 29 (Reuters) Steve McClaren, the hot favourite to take over as England manager, has faced an early example of the media scrutiny which persuaded Portuguese coach Luiz Felipe Scolari he no longer wanted the job.

The Middlesbrough manager has been forced to confess to The Sun newspaper that he had a three-month affair with a secretary during a trial separation from his wife.

''I don't know why this has come out at this time but I want to clear it up,'' McClaren said in a statement. ''I feel this is a private matter but in view of speculation about myself and the England job, I felt I had to clarify the situation.'' Scolari, who guided Brazil to the 2002 World Cup, told a news conference yesterday the media pressure since he emerged as the likely successor to Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson had been relentless.

''I don't want this situation,'' he said. ''My privacy was totally under siege.'' Scolari's decision has forced the FA to return to candidates they appeared to have rejected as a replacement for England's first foreign manager.

McClaren, 44, who has spent several years as Eriksson's assistant, was installed yesterday as the 4-9 favourite by English bookmakers William Hill.

Bolton's Sam Allardyce is 11-2, Northern Irishman Martin O'Neill 7-1 and Charlton manager Alan Curbishley 8-1. But in a reflection of the confusion created by Scolari's announcement, the 57-year-old Brazilian is still the second favourite at 5-1.

FIGHTBACKS McClaren's stock has risen after a remarkable fightback on Thursday by Middlesbrough, who scored four goals to beat Steaua Bucharest 4-3 on aggregate and advance to the UEFA Cup final for the first time.

It mirrored the quarter-final against Swiss club Basel when Middlesbrough also roared back with four goals.

After a modest playing career McClaren moved into coaching, enjoying a successful spell at Derby before joining Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. The partnership was immediately successful when United won the Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup in 1999.

In 2000, McClaren was named caretaker England manager prior to Eriksson's appointment. He took over at Middlesbrough in the following year.

The FA, and in particular, their chief executive Brian Barwick, were subjected to a barrage of criticism today.

Barwick confirmed Scolari was the likely choice when he told reporters at Heathrow airport last Thursday that he had interviewed Scolari in Lisbon on the previous day.

''Out of all this mess, the Football Association come with little or no credit at all,'' former England manager Graham Taylor told BBC radio.

''I think they haven't had their structure right from the word go when Sven-Goran Eriksson agreed he would leave. They haven't been discreet enough about it.

Taylor said Barwick should have been more diplomatic about his trip to Portugal.

''The attention of where he goes and where he travels would have been very intense and I think it could have been done in a much more professional way and much more discreet way,'' he said.

REUTERS DH BD1815

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