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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

McClaren accepts his share of World Cup blame

New England manager Steve McClaren insists he has not tried to wash his hands of predecessor Sven-Goran Eriksson's disappointing reign.

Former Middlesbrough boss McClaren worked as Eriksson's assistant for five years until taking over from the Swede after this summer's World Cup.

McClaren has tried to make a clean break - particularly by omitting former captain David Beckham from his first squad - but he does not want to disassociate himself with Eriksson completely.

McClaren told Sky Sports: 'I was a part of it and I was responsible for it along with the players and the rest of the staff.

'I'm not saying I've moved away from that. I had a great respect and friendship with Sven and really appreciate the five years I had with him. I would never criticise him.'

One of Eriksson's most controversial decisions was the selection of Theo Walcott for the World Cup in Germany even though the 17-year-old striker had not played in Arsenal's first team.

The selection proved to be a mistake as Walcott did not feature in any of the games but McClaren understood why Eriksson made his choice - although he did not comment on whether he agreed or not.

He said: 'I think it was looking at something different. There was a problem with Wayne Rooney - whether he was going to be fit - and Michael Owen, who hadn't played the games and just coming back to fitness.

'He was just excited by this player. Whether I agreed or disagreed - and that's a private conversation we had - ultimately it was Sven's decision.'

McClaren also dismissed suggestions that Eriksson had a relationship with his captain, Beckham, that proved detrimental to the rest of the team.

McClaren said: 'I've appointed John Terry as skipper and I want exactly the same relationship. I want him to build the dressing room, I want him to build the spirit and be a part of the decisions.

'At this level players have an awful lot to contribute to what is happening on the field and what is happening off the field. That's how captains should be, they should be the benchmark for the rest of the squad.

'I believe John Terry is along those lines. On the field you need a leader and that's why I have picked John Terry.'

Chelsea captain Terry was named as England's leader this week ahead of Liverpool's Steven Gerrard but McClaren admitted both were outstanding candidates.

'The decision came down to personal choice, nothing to do with personalities,' he said. 'I always had John Terry in mind. For me centre-halves are always good leaders, they can see the picture and everything in front of them.

'All the people I could have chosen have a passion for the game but it was a personal choice.'

McClaren will meet up with his squad tonight to begin preparations for his first match in charge against Greece on Wednesday.

England then begin their qualifying campaign for Euro 2008 next month and the new manager hopes that by the time tournament comes around, he has a team that can adapt comfortable to different systems.

Eriksson was criticised for not appearing to have a preferred formation or enough back-up plans when the World Cup started.

'I am looking for flexibility, for different styles and ways of playing,' McClaren said. 'We have got to make sure when we come in to a tournament we have got two or three different systems we can adapt to, fluidly.

'We have got a set of players that I believe can win a major tournament. You have to have that belief and be able to handle that belief.

'We have some of the top players. They handle it in the Premier League and they play on some of the biggest stages in the world. We have to be able to transfer that over.

'I think there is a little bit of fear and we certainly have to try to dismiss that.'