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The tale of two talismans

By ESPN Staff

McClaren dismisses Maccarone and Mills

England manager Steve McClaren insisted he was 'losing no sleep' over derogatory comments made about him by former Middlesbrough duo Massimo Maccarone and Danny Mills.

McClaren was portrayed as being two-faced by Italian midfielder Maccarone and his comments were echoed by Mills who is now back at Manchester City after his loan spell at the Riverside Stadium.

But McClaren responded with a broad grin when asked about the duo's outburst on the eve of England's friendly international with Spain at Old Trafford.

He said: 'What people say about you is part and parcel of the job. You can't please everyone and whatever comments are made, I am certainly losing no sleep over it.'

McClaren also played down suggestions that it was a make-or-break year for him, with England's hopes of qualifying for Euro 2008 in the balance ahead of the March group games with Israel and Andorra.

He said: 'It is the beginning of a big year for us. We start with a friendly against Spain and hopefully we will finish it with qualification for Euro 2008.

'I don't see it as make or break for me. I see it as a big year because we need to qualify for the European Championships next year. There is no added pressure on myself or anyone.

'The only pressure is to win football matches and achieve our target which is qualification for Austria and Switzerland.'

McClaren has made seven changes from the side which drew with Holland in Amsterdam three months ago and he is keen to develop competition for places.

He said: 'We have always got a core of players who, week in and week out, year in and year out, do the business. They are the core and they are the ones on the team sheet every time we pick a squad.

'But outside of that, players who are playing well for their club, who are doing it week in and week out, deserve an opportunity.

'I was delighted to give Joey Barton, Gareth Barry and Jonathan Woodgate an opportunity this week. I think it is great, not a shake-up necessarily, but it bolsters competition and everybody needs that.

'It freshens everyone up, livens everyone up and it has certainly done that in the last couple of days.'

McClaren is again set to play the 4-3-3 formation used against Holland although there are different personnel up front with Andrew Johnson, Wayne Rooney and Joe Cole replaced by Kieron Dyer, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Peter Crouch.

He said: 'We just want to progress on from our performance against Holland. There were many good things in that game. It wasn't the finished article but there were many good things and we wanted to try that again on Wednesday.

'We are doing it with different personnel and this is a game in which we can try things. It is a friendly, we can try to be flexible in the way we play.'