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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 14 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Sep 11, 2007

McClaren accepts decisions will be questioned

England manager Steve McClaren admitted the decisions he makes will be viewed as either brave or foolish depending on the results he achieves.

The former Middlesbrough boss denied he had been courageous in bringing Emile Heskey back for the 3-0 victory against Israel after three years in the international wilderness.

Heskey linked well with Michael Owen against Israel and McClaren has to decide whether to retain the Wigan striker or bring back Liverpool's Peter Crouch, who is available again after suspension, for tomorrow's Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia at Wembley.

'The decisions you make are the ones necessary to win the game,' said the England manager.

'It doesn't matter as long as it works. When it works you are brave and when they don't you can be foolish.

'I felt Emile could come back and help us win and he certainly helped us on Saturday.

'Peter is big player for us, he scores goals and it is great to have that option coming back.'

With Russia likely to provide a tougher test than Israel McClaren hinted the team may have to play slightly differently - even if they do not line up differently - in order to secure the win which would put England back on track for qualification.

'We have looked at one or two things and we have tried one or two things but I will confirm the team tomorrow lunchtime at the team meeting,' he added.

'It is a different challenge, a tougher challenge. Russia play a different system so we may have to tweak one or two things.'

With pressure growing on the squad to stamp their authority on their qualifying group the victory over Israel had lifted the players and McClaren said he had noticed a difference in training.

However, he said they could now not allow their standards to slip.

'There is a great spirit among the squad, a lot of confidence and belief. We have done the first job and we have to follow that up,' said McClaren.

'They have to transfer that on Saturday and the way they train into the next game.

'This is coming to the nitty-gritty and we can't afford any slip-ups and the players know that. It is like the run into a championship or a quarter-final of a cup and when you can see the finish line it helps the players' concentration.

'We need consistency and that is what I am looking for. We have to carry it through to the rest of the games in the group stages.

'A win tomorrow will put us in a very good position in the group and then we are in charge.'

McClaren refused to be drawn into a head-to-head confrontation with Russia coach Guus Hiddink, who was tipped to be a contender to succeed Sven-Goran Eriksson before the job went to his number two.

When it was suggested victory over the Dutchman's side would be sweeter considering he had been a rival for his job McClaren said: 'The only satisfaction I will get is winning the game which will put us in a strong position in the group.'

McClaren admitted beating Israel 3-0 without a string of first-team regulars had lifted confidence in the squad and given cause for optimism about a new generation of England internationals.

He added: 'We came into this double header with many people moaning about the injuries, the drop-outs and it has just shown we can get a team out and perform.

'We've got competition for places and it's good for the future but we're concentrating on Russia.'