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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 16, 2007

England players must show character - McClaren

Steve McClaren is demanding England's players take collective responsibility for reaching Euro 2008.

McClaren was subjected to some of the most vicious personal abuse any England coach has had to endure in Barcelona last March as his side struggled to overcome the part-timers of Andorra.

Although Steven Gerrard eventually inspired a winning performance, McClaren was left facing a massive task to restore public confidence in his tenure.

Yet, deep within the bowels of the Olympic Stadium, McClaren could sense an undercurrent of indignation from his team, and a determination to right a few wrongs.

The former Middlesbrough boss had to wait two long months before receiving confirmation his theory was correct. And now he is anxious the momentum should not be lost.

'Personal attacks are not really a problem, I can deal with that,' said McClaren.

'But all the adversity and criticism everyone received after Andorra seems to have galvanised the team. Something happened after that game that made me think 'yes, we might just come together'.

'I needed that demonstrating in the three games against Albania, Brazil and Estonia. What pleased me was the players came together and backed each other. They said we have to do it.

'That is what I want to get back to and that is what I want to stress to everyone on Monday. We must not lose that.'

With skipper John Terry, plus Owen Hargreaves, Michael Owen and David Beckham all set to be named despite major doubts over their fitness, it promises to be a massive squad McClaren unveils tomorrow for next Wednesday's Wembley encounter with three-time world champions Germany.

McClaren also faces a test of his negotiating skills to get Gerrard released for the get-together with Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez insisting he will not be. Benitez claims the player's hairline fracture of a toe will not prevent him facing Chelsea on Sunday but he will need to rest afterwards.

McClaren, who was speaking at the sponsoredbyyou.com event hosted by England sponsors Nationwide, is keen the bond created in June should remain as he looks forward to the key double-header against Israel and Russia next month which is likely to prove pivotal in the battle to reach Austria and Switzerland in the summer.

Even without confirmed absentees Wayne Rooney and Aaron Lennon, McClaren knows he has enough quality to choose from.

The key, as far as the coach is concerned, is being able to mould it into a team rather than setting loose a collection of individuals onto Wembley's wide-open spaces.

'I know the Albania game was a B international but in that match, and against Brazil and Estonia later on, we started to get the England I know and I want,' said McClaren.

'Each player wanted to wear the shirt and they all showed grit, determination and commitment.

'They wanted to join up, they wanted to train and they wanted to compete. The quality of the football; the crossing and passing, was superb.

'But the biggest thing was that we played as a team. That is what I need to stress and carry on stressing.

'When we play as a team rather than individuals, we are good and we have a good chance. If we don't, yes, we will win some games but we won't win the big ones and we won't win qualifications and tournaments.'

With Manchester City teenager Micah Richards confirmed as McClaren's first-choice right-back in the absence of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher's retirement now confirmed, McClaren will be forced to delve deep into his list of central defenders.

Everton's Joleon Lescott impressed the England manager during Tuesday's win at Tottenham but Sol Campbell's hopes of being involved may have been dashed by a groin injury that ruled him out of Portsmouth's draw with Manchester United.