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By ESPN Staff

Owen - Managing England is the impossible job

Michael Owen believes coaching England is a far harder task than any club job he can think of.

Steve McClaren could be heading into his penultimate match in charge tomorrow as he gears his team up for the friendly against Austria in Vienna.

Despite widespread pleas for McClaren to be kept on, the Football Association know they will come under intense pressure to ditch the former Middlesbrough boss after only 18 games should Euro 2008 fates not smile on the Three Lions over the weekend.

Elimination, which will effectively be triggered by a Russian win in Israel and a failure to win by Macedonia against Croatia on Saturday, will see McClaren become the first England coach to fail in a quest to reach a major tournament since Graham Taylor's team were dumped out of the 1994 World Cup by Holland.

And while Owen is one of those who feels McClaren should remain in a job no matter what happens, he accepts the massive pressure which accompanies the £3million-a-year role.

'It is probably harder to manage England than any club,' said the 27-year-old forward.

'There is a lot of pressure involved and because the manager doesn't get to see the players as often as they would at club level, if you have a bad result, you have to live with it for a month or two, which must be really hard.

'If you have a good game, everything is great, if you don't you get criticised. I always feel like I can never relax but that is especially the case for Steve.'

Having recently opened a plush horse racing stables in Cheshire, Owen was quick to stress management was not on his own radar of potential jobs when his own playing days are over.

It seems fairly obvious his post-career path will take him even deeper into the equine world, although for now he is more focused on adding to his international tally of 40 goals - only the fourth England player to achieve such a landmark - and aiding McClaren's men in their quest to reach the Finals in Austria and Switzerland next summer.

Like all his team-mates, Owen will return from Vienna in time to watch events in Tel Aviv unfold.

And, while he remains optimistic the situation will turn in England's favour, if events conspire against them, the former Real Madrid star knows his team-mates only have themselves to blame.

'Israel is a tough place to go,' said Owen.

'They have a cracking home record, which bears that out.

'There is a lot of uncertainty around at the moment but the key thing is to ensure we are in the right frame of mind to take advantage if someone does us a favour. It would be criminal if that wasn't the case.

'However, there is no hiding the fact we should be qualifying out of this group.'