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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 4, 2006

Barwick: McClaren was my first choice

Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick today insisted Steve McClaren had always been his first choice to be the next England manager.

Sven-Goran Eriksson's assistant will take over when the Swede leaves the post after the World Cup finals in Germany this summer.

Barwick and the FA have been roundly criticised for the 'tortuous' fashion in which they have selected the next head coach of the national team, including when they publicly admitted speaking to Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari in Lisbon last week.

Scolari rejected the chance to become England coach although Barwick insisted today the Brazilian had never actually been offered the job in the face of accusations that McClaren was 'second choice'.

'It's seen by many as a torturous process,' conceded Barwick. 'I think we tried to appoint a senior person in a major industry.

'We hit the target early today. It started in early March and it ended up in May. We have had a job to do and it's taken us as long as it's taken us.

'It may have been tedious from where you were, at times it's been tedious from where we are, but it's taken as long as it has.

'He (McClaren) did two fantastic interviews. He was my first choice, the FA board's unanimous choice.'

Barwick added: 'I saw (Luiz) Felipe Scolari on three occasions - once in London, once in Oxfordshire, definitely in Lisbon. There were potential developments... he then declared he had no interest in the job.

'We never offered him the job.

'My first choice was always Steve McClaren. That might be difficult for people to get their heads across.

'We tried to take out the conjecture before a World Cup in a football industry that needs to know where it's going through the closed season.'

Barwick confirmed McClaren's first match in charge will be a friendly against Greece, on August 16 at Old Trafford.

The FA received a lot of criticism over the way the selection process was handled, with so many individuals having an input, but Barwick said the set-up of the organisation meant it was inevitable.

The chief executive continued: 'We are the FA and we have to take people with us. I enjoyed having some experience around it.

'From the outside it is an easy chip to have at us but those people were very helpful to me.

'It always looks complicated from the outside but it is less complicated and convoluted from the inside.

'People are able to be appointed in discreet ways but we accept, as the Football Association, it is difficult for people to keep secrets.'

Barwick revealed besides receiving advice from figures within the FA - Sir Trevor Brooking, as director of football development, played a significant part - he also sought the opinion of Arsene Wenger.

The Arsenal manager - whom many would have liked to have seen leading England - immediately made it clear he was not interested in succeeding Eriksson when Barwick visited but was able to offer some advice.

'I went to see Arsene Wenger, a very courteous man, and he said he wanted to stay in club football,' explained Barwick.

'We spent some time in conversation about the type of qualities an England coach needs.

'Trevor Brooking also played a major part throughout the process.'

Barwick was convinced the FA had made the right decision and it pleased him that achieved it with minimum disruption to the playing squad.

'I believe we have absolutely got the best man for the job. It was very important for us to have an Englishman.

'Continuity is always one of the things which has been talked about and we have some genuine, top-level continuity this time.'

• Brian Barwick insists he did not consider resigning despite heavy criticism of the selection process for the new England manager.

Middlesbrough boss Steve McClaren was today unveiled as the man to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup.

It ends a turbulent nine-week search, spearheaded by the Football Association's chief executive Barwick, who came under fire when Brazilian Luiz Felipe Scolari appeared to snub the job.

Scolari was reported to have been offered the job but suddenly said no, making McClaren seem like a second choice.

Barwick said: 'I didn't consider resigning. Of course I didn't. I'm disappointed you ask the question.

'The criticism of the FA was full-on. I try and understand the merit of the arguments I read but it was tough.

'Some of it was very pointed, very difficult to read, some of it was unfair and some of it was probably fair.'