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Premier League's best youngsters are English

Tactics and Analysis 5 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Aug 21, 2007

McClaren: Germany friendly just a 'stepping stone'

Win or lose at Wembley tomorrow, Steve McClaren does not expected to be judged until England's Euro 2008 fate is determined in November.

McClaren has already looked on aghast as the job prospects of some managers have started to hang in the balance just a week into the new season.

Tottenham's Martin Jol is the first in the firing line, with speculation mounting the Dutchman will be moved on before very long.

After suffering some of the most sustained abuse ever directed at an England coach during the scrappy win over Andorra in March, followed by widespread calls for his dismissal, McClaren could be forgiven for shuffling rather uncomfortably in his seat ahead of the friendly with Germany - the first time the sides have met at Wembley since Kevin Keegan famously quit in 2000.

Yet the former Middlesbrough boss remains relaxed, happy that having stabilised the situation with an encouraging run of results in June, he has earned himself the right to see out the remainder of England's qualifying campaign.

He said: 'I know I am going to be judged in November.

'England don't play friendlies. There will be 90,000 people at Wembley tomorrow and another eight million watching on TV; that is some friendly.

'But really, it is just a stepping stone. The last time England played Germany, we won 5-1 and they went on to reach the World Cup final.

'The qualifiers are the most important thing.

'I know I will be judged in November. We have to qualify and that is the aim.'

The crucial nature of next month's double-header with Israel and Russia is the major reason why McClaren was so keen to speak with all his senior men this week, even though some will not be involved against the three-time world champions.

His major aim for the week was to ensure by the time his squad gathers for their next meaningful assignment, they are fully aware of what lies ahead.

'When we get together I chat to the players individually and collectively to discuss what we have done in the past and what we want to do in the future.

'It is particularly important just now because they have been with their clubs throughout pre-season, they have just had a hectic run of three games in a week and their heads are spinning.

'I just want to clear their heads and say England is back on the agenda.'

While the likes of Steven Gerrard and Owen Hargreaves should be available for next month's challenges, McClaren has ended up with a reasonably strong squad for tomorrow's encounter, even if the fitness of John Terry, Michael Owen and David Beckham has to be taken on trust.

Beckham has apparently suffered no reaction to the ankle problem which plagued him throughout the summer in training this week and is expected to start, justifying a series of trans-Atlantic treks for the former skipper.

'I certainly think it is worth him flying over,' said McClaren.

'The fact David was willing to make the trip speaks for itself.'

McClaren insisted he has no arrangements in place with any Premier League managers over the use of their players.

As skipper John Terry is expected to partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence, man-of-the-moment Micah Richards is expected to start at right-back, with Ashley Cole completing the defensive quartet.

Paul Robinson remains in goal, although he is facing a stiffer challenge than ever to his place following the decision to end in-form veteran David James' 12-month England exile.

Owen is guaranteed some much-needed match practice but, with Darren Bent and Andrew Johnson missing through injury and Wayne Rooney out with a longer term problem, McClaren faces a delicate decision over a partner for the Newcastle man.

Peter Crouch would normally be an automatic choice but the Liverpool forward's appearance have been restricted this term.

He is also suspended for the Israel game, which may just tip the balance in Alan Smith's favour, raising the prospect of an all-Geordie forward line starting for England for the first time since Alan Shearer and Les Ferdinand faced Poland in 1996.

'Peter is a consideration but first and foremost, we have to prepare for the Israel game and look at one or two things we might want to try,' said McClaren, who went against previous convention for friendly matches and declined to name his team 24 hours in advance.

'Alan Smith's attitude and commitment is fantastic. He has needed that to come back from his injury.

'He knows he can be better but after a full pre-season, his conditioning is a lot better now.'