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By ESPN Staff

McClaren: 'Saddest day of my career'

Steve McClaren has described his dismissal as England manager as 'one of the saddest days of my career'.

McClaren was sacked on Thursday morning after England's defeat to Croatia on Wednesday night meant the team missed out on qualification for next summer's Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland.

The search now begins for McClaren's successor, but the former Middlesbrough boss was saddened that his time in charge had come to an end.

He said: 'First of all can I say this is one of the saddest days of my career.

'Eighteen months ago (when he was appointed) was the proudest day of my career and I was honoured to be the England head coach and for 18 months I've enjoyed every minute.

'It is a sad day to have been relieved of my duties but I understand the decision of the FA.'

McClaren revealed that the FA's chief executive Brian Barwick informed him of the decision on Thursday morning.

'With regret, unfortunately we didn't qualify and we've come to this situation,' he said.

'Brian phoned me this morning at 9.30 and told me after the meeting of the decision.

'Obviously there's going to be a clamour for a new head coach. The future is the future, all I can do is concentrate on getting over this huge disappointment and looking forward.

'Although it is a sad day I will recover, bounce back and wait for my next challenge. I'm not one to lie on a beach.

'I believe after 18 months I am a better coach than I was 18 months ago.

'It was a failure but I will learn from that and move on.'

McClaren said he accepts responsibility for England's miserable qualifying campaign.

'I'm not making any excuses, we had enough games to do it,' he said.

'The support I've had from everybody over the 18 months but particularly, the last six weeks, has been fantastic from everybody. Support from within the game, I've always had support from the FA, they have been very good to me.

'The support from the players has been fantastic. I've worked with them for six years now and the players I've worked with, no matter what people say and the criticism coming their way, they are a fantastic bunch of players.

'I can't criticise anybody.

'I said at the beginning it was my responsibility, I would live and die by results and results haven't gone my way.'

McClaren denied there had been any issues surrounding players' millionaire lifestyles saying: 'These are professional footballers who want to play for England.

'All I will say is they are a pleasure to work with, they really want to achieve. 'Unfortunately we have come up short and we all take responsibility.

'After the disappointment and the criticism we need to get behind our football players.'

The former Middlesbrough boss did not shy away from the team's shortcomings during his tenure and admits he came up short.

'I take full responsibility, results haven't gone our way and we haven't qualified and I've paid the price.

'I learned many things along the way - it has been a great 18 months. I've been proud to have been the England manager.'

McClaren refused to be drawn on the review to be undertaken by the FA.

'Whatever the problems I don't think it's for me today - it's a wider issue and a bigger issue. I'm sure I'll speak to Brian on that issue.

'I want England to achieve. I've been working with these players for six years and I'm as disappointed as anyone we have not qualified.

McClaren refused to be drawn on whether FA chairman Geoff Thompson and chief executive Barwick should consider their future, but made it clear he would not have been prepared to resign.

He said: 'I have never walked away from anything and I never intend to. There was no reason to. The decision was taken out of my hands, but it was never in mine because I would never walk away.

'This is a fantastic job, it was a great honour and something I am privileged to have carried through, I'm just bitterly disappointed not to have qualified.'

McClaren insisted the failure to qualify could not all be pinned on last night's result, adding: 'It wasn't just about last night, it was about other games, we had two chances (to qualify) and we didn't take them.

'You live and die by results, I asked to be judged on that and people have.'

England had been thrown a lifeline at the weekend when Israel's victory over Russia meant a draw against Croatia last night would be enough to qualify for Euro 2008.

But they got off to a disastrous start at a wet Wembley.

They fell two behind inside the first 20 minutes, the first thanks to a calamitous error from goalkeeper Scott Carson.

England battled back to level thanks to the efforts of half-time substitute David Beckham, who set up Peter Crouch for the equaliser after Frank Lampard had netted a penalty.

But England were unable to hold on and Mladen Petric finished them off with a clinical strike 13 minutes from time.

Reports said McClaren would receive a pay-off of about £2.5million because he refused to resign, forcing the board to sack him.

He will receive one year's salary in compensation for a contract that was due to run until 2010, the Evening Standard said.

The bookies made Martin O'Neill favourite to be the next England boss with Jose Mourinho second favourite at 7/2.

None of the other British home nations - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - qualified for next year's tournament.

Scotland finished third in their group behind France and Italy.

Northern Ireland also finished third, in Group F, behind Spain and Sweden, while Wales ended their Group D campaign in fifth place.