Steve McLaren to Nottingham Forest: Has England's Finest Coach Returned Home?
The Nottingham Forest manager’s job will always be one with great expectation.
Forget the fact that Forest have played their football outside of England’s top division since 1999.
That has not dimmed expectations any more than England’s 45-year trophy drought has calmed the expectation upon the England hot-seat so precariously filled by Fabio Capello.
The truth is, any manager who takes charge at the City Ground will always be compared to Middlesbrough-born managerial icon Brian Clough.
However, another man with a Middlesbrough connection could be on the brink of taking the ‘Tricky Trees’ back up to the big time.
Former Boro boss Steve McLaren has revived his career overseas since his failure with the England national team, winning the Dutch title and in the process becoming the first English manager to win a title abroad since Bobby Robson.
Indeed, McLaren became the first English manager to win a top division title since Robson achieved the feat with FC Porto in 1996.
Back on the English club scene, McLaren, Joe Royle and Harry Redknapp are the only English coaches to win major domestic honors since Howard Wilkinson won the old First Division Title with Leeds United in 1992.
While the knee-jerk reactions of fans everywhere to McLaren being hailed as England’s best coach will be a snigger, the fact is he is in the discussion and the competition is very scarce.
While the success of Scottish managers is abundant in the English game, the day when an Englishman wins the Premier League title seems a long way off indeed.
Who is the best active English coach?
McLaren stayed at Old Trafford until 2001 and the Red Devils won every title they contested while he was at the club.
The first management position McLaren took was at unfashionable Middlesbrough, where he managed to win the first trophy in the 128-year history of the club. Middlesbrough beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 in the Carling Cup Final, a game in which the Boro boss scored a major victory over Sam Allardyce.
The victory denied Allardyce silverware and despite his impressive resume, ‘Big Sam’ still does not have a major trophy.
Boro qualified for Europe for the first time in their history and went on to defeat a succession of high profile sides including AS Roma, SS Lazio and Steua Bucharest. The Teessiders also made a run to the UEFA Cup Final in 2006.
During the quarter-final and semi-final stages of the tournament, the notoriously defensive McLaren oversaw four goal comebacks to reach the final in Eindhoven, where Boro were beaten by an impressive Sevilla side.
McLaren failed with England, but went to the Netherlands to revive his career, and helped FC Twente win the first Dutch Title in the history of the club. It seems McLaren has the ability to lift clubs to previously unseen heights.
With only two major trophies, it seems a stretch to call McLaren a great of his generation. However, what active English manager can top it?
Harry Redknapp is the media favorite right now and has more experience, but the fact is that Redknapp has captured one major trophy in 27 years of management.
The one thing different about Forest is McLaren will certainly not be bringing them success the club has never seen before. Thanks to the legendary Brian Clough, no one ever will.
However, if Forest are promoted back to the Premier League and stay there, McLaren will strengthen his case as England’s best homegrown coach.
In fact he may even be offered the England job…or maybe not!
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