McClaren demands time to revive England
Steve McClaren has pleaded for patience as he tries to turn England into a team of world-beaters.
After October's abysmal Euro 2008 qualifying double-header against Macedonia and Croatia that yielded just a single point, McClaren's side were able to restore some of their battered pride with an encouraging display against Holland last month when only Rafael van der Vaart's late equaliser denied them victory.
However, with England's hopes of reaching the European Championship finals precariously placed, McClaren knows defeat in Israel when the qualification campaign resumes in March will see the critics sharpening their knives once more.
Yet the former Middlesbrough manager does not believe his suitability for the job should be assessed over a matter of months.
'Rome was not built in a day,' he said. 'It is where you end up, not where you are after the initial period.
'We are talking about qualifying for the Euros and we are talking about the World Cup, so are you going to start judging after four or five months?
'It's got to be a long term. You have to develop things and that is what we are going to do.'
The three-month gap between games during the winter months is a frustrating period for any international manager.
However, McClaren appears to be using his time wisely, getting to see as many games as he can and identifying potential international stars of the future.
Together with assistant Terry Venables - whom McClaren insists is committed to England despite recent reports to the contrary - and the remainder of his coaching team, the former Middlesbrough boss has identified 50 potential internationals currently available to him.
Of that number, 'seven or eight' were overlooked for the Holland game but are now too old to be considered for under-21 duty.
The list of possible candidates includes Kevin Nolan and Gareth Barry, but presumably not deposed skipper David Beckham.
However, one man who looks certain to be included for February's friendly with Spain at Old Trafford is Manchester City's Joey Barton.
No stranger to controversy following a string of regrettable incidents, on and off the field, the 24-year-old was back in the spotlight this weekend when he condemned the `book' culture of so many England stars, claiming he would not want to read the thoughts of anyone who had failed so miserably to perform at this summer's World Cup.
Broadcast live on TV, such thoughts are hardly likely to endear Barton to future team-mates.
However, this will not stop McClaren giving serious consideration to bringing Barton into the international fold at the earliest opportunity.
'I tried to buy Joey Barton when I was at Middlesbrough so yes, he is a player who interests me,' said McClaren. 'He has had his troubles but he has come through them and he is a player who has matured over the year.'
McClaren was at Old Trafford at the weekend to see Barton do his best, but ultimately fail, to engineer a first Manchester City derby win in 32 years at the home of their local rivals.
'Joey is a leader,' he said. 'He has great character. You need people like that, forthright people, not just on the field but off it as well.'