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The Toe Poke
By ESPN Staff

Van Basten sees similarities with McClaren

Marco van Basten has scoffed at suggestions Steve McClaren has an impossible job, claiming he is under as much pressure as the beleaguered England coach.

Having seen his honeymoon period brought to an abrupt end last month by following up a disappointing home draw against Macedonia with an inept display in defeat to Croatia, McClaren will be under greater scrutiny than he might have imagined when England tackle Holland in Amsterdam tomorrow.

Even though he only succeeded Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup, some critics have already suggested McClaren should be relieved of his duties even before the Euro 2008 qualifiers have been completed.

Such is the intense debate over McClaren's selection and tactics, the former Middlesbrough boss could be forgiven for wishing he had never taken the job in the first place.

However, van Basten argues McClaren is hardly in a unique situation, with even his status as one of the world's greatest strikers not saving him from criticism following Holland's equally unhappy World Cup campaign.

'We have a pretty similar situation in Holland,' he said.

'At least England have won a World Cup, which is more than we have managed to do.

'I think in all the major European countries, once they have qualified for a tournament, the public want to believe anything is possible.

'England are a great country in football terms. They have a great history and great players. But unfortunately, only one team can win.'

Having taken on the Dutch national job in 2004, Van Basten has two years more experience behind him than McClaren.

And he believes the answer to the England manager's problem is simple - stick to your beliefs and do not try to please everyone.

'All he can do is work with the team and try to get them to perform well,' said van Basten.

'In this job, it is difficult to satisfy everyone. And in any case, that is not the goal. Working well and winning matches is the most important thing.'

Even though Manchester United keeper Edwin van der Sar has been excused the game and Arsenal's Robin van Persie will miss out to attend the birth of his first child, van Basten is still expected to name five Premiership-based players in his starting line-up.

However, it is the inclusion of veteran midfielder Clarence Seedorf that has attracted most attention around the Holland camp.

Similar to the position David Beckham finds himself in with McClaren, Seedorf was among a number of experienced players purged by van Basten when he succeeded Dick Advocaat as coach.

During his two years in charge, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy have also felt the brunt of van Basten's ruthless streak.

However, in a move which must give Beckham hope of playing for England again, Seedorf has been recalled, with van Basten gracious enough to admit the AC Milan midfielder had proved him wrong.

'When I started in this job I wanted to try to give a few younger players a chance to show me the qualities they have,' he said.

'But over time we have seen that Clarence is still playing well for AC Milan and we are also starting to think a little differently about the players we gave opportunities to before.

'Clarence has earned his chance to play again and he will be in midfield for us tomorrow.'

Possible Holland team (4-3-3): H Timmer, K Boulharouz, A Ooijer, J Mathieson, U Emanuelsen, D Landzaat, S Schaars, C Seedorf, A Robben, D Kuyt, R Van der Vaart.