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Steve McClaren at the NSCAA Event

steve mcclaren1 Steve McClaren at the NSCAA EventThe future looks bright for Steve McClaren. Unless Major League Soccer decides to appoint him as a coach or McClaren gets desperate, I don’t see Second Choice Steve getting a job anytime in the near future.

The future does look bright for him, though, because he definitely could continue doing the speaking engagements as he did this past weekend in Baltimore at the 2008 NSCAA convention.

McClaren gave a couple of presentations in front of a crowd of soccer coaches and dignitaries. I missed his first presentation, but I did catch his second one.

In front of an audience of approximately 1,000 people, McClaren shocked me. He’s actually a pretty accomplished speaker doing a good job at holding the attention of the audience, throwing in a bit of humor now and again and finding a way to connect with the mostly male crowd. What surprised me most was how charismatic McClaren seemed to be.

The most noticeable thing about McClaren at NSCAA was how relaxed and happy he appeared. Gone was the veil of self doubt, fear and incompetence that was such a part of his face and body language of the past 12 months.

During the 90 minute speech, he covered many recommendations for coaches, but he interspersed them with stories from his career such as interactions with Roy Keane.

With Keane, he shared the story about the time when McClaren was assistant manager at Old Trafford. After one particular match, McClaren said to the players something to the effect of “good game today lads.” Keane looked McClaren and said “Good game? Good game??” and then proceeded to point out players in the changing room. “He was crap.” “He was crap too.” “He was hopeless and me, I was horrible.” Interestingly, Man United had won the match but Keane wanted to raise the standards.

Later, McClaren shared his insight into what he felt like before, during and after the England match against Andorra. He shared his feedback on how he could sense a very negative attitude among English fans in the days leading up to the big match. Before the game kicked off, he described how he spoke with England team psychologist Bill Beswick and said that the England fans would turn against the team if they hadn’t scored by the 15-20th minute.

As you may recall, the England fans turned on the team after the tenth minute mark and McClaren remarked how vicious the verbal abuse was but how he and the team overcame the adversity and ended up winning the match 3-0. In recounting what happened, I almost felt sorry for McClaren but, in the back of my head, I remembered how woeful the England performances were as well as remembering how woeful the opposition was. After all, this wasn’t Brazil he was playing. It was bloody Andorra.

At the end of the speech, McClaren received a warm applause from the audience as well as a standing ovation from the crowd. Only in America could McClaren be welcomed with open arms and treated so well.

Two more stories about McClaren at the NSCAA event. The first time I spotted him was on Friday where he was having a casual chat with England team psychologist Bill Beswick a few minutes before Beswick’s presentation was scheduled to start. Standing in front of the podium, McClaren was the epitomy of relaxation wearing blue jeans, a light blue shirt and brown shoes.

What caught me by surprise was that no one in the audience seemed to realize that McClaren was there. Not one person walked up to him to ask for an autograph or to shake his hand. Just as Beswick’s presentation was about to begin, McClaren walked back down the middle aisle and to the back of the room. Again, not one person seemed to recognize him or bother him.

Contrast this with England, and you can see why McClaren enjoys coming to America so much. McClaren would have been ridiculed and/or mobbed in England.

I followed up and asked him for a photograph, which he was glad to allow.

My second opportunity to meet him was after his second presentation when GolTV and I had a chance to interview him. When it was my turn for the interview, McClaren seemed relaxed but as he was answering the questions he wouldn’t make eye contact and instead starred into the distance as if memorizing his script. “The future is the future.”


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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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