By John Nicholson

Is Steve McClaren a two-faced hypocrite? Yes, says ex-players Massimo Maccarone and Danny Mills, no says, well, nobody except McClaren.

Both sides are obviously biased, but there is an air of truth about these criticisms simply because they confirm so many fans long held beliefs, that McClaren is an essentially weak man. When he was Boro manager he was always at his worst when the side was losing and playing crap, which to be fair was a lot of the time.

He clearly didn’t enjoy criticism, well who does, but you could see that it irked him that anyone was critical of the sides he put out, despite the fact it was self evident that they were playing badly. He regularly put out poorly organized and under-motivated sides and he also never used relatively substantial funds available to him very well.

He was always quick with a cheesy smile and the positive vibes when things were going well, and I certainly always felt that he wallowed too deeply in the successes and hid from the failures too much. This is a quintessential sign of a basically insecure and weak manager.

There was never any sign at Middlesbrough that he was good under pressure, quite the reverse, and its worth remembering that the great 4-3 recoveries in Europe were at least as much to do with the senior players taking control in the dressing room at half time. In fact, there has long been a suggestion that McClaren’s advice was ignored and dismissed by the players because it was his tactics that had led them to being behind in the first place.

That might be a bit harsh but it certainly illustrates the lack of respect and motivational ability that is inherent to McClaren’s character.

Maccarone’s accusation was that McClaren made false promises to him; that he was two-faced. Well most players who are leaving a club after five years of failure will probably feel a bit resentful and he was an absolute stinker of a player – apart from the last minute goals in Europe of course – and should have been shipped out at least 2 years ago – it is a sign of McClaren’s weakness again that he wasn’t.

But it was Danny Mill’s comments at the weekend on 5Live that he had sympathy for the Italian and had found McClaren to be like that too, that I thought was more significant. Mills top flight career is over and he wasn’t at Boro long but he is an articulate critic and he did play under McClaren and Sven in Japorea in 2002 so he has seen him at work and has no obvious axe to grind at this stage of his career, so it’s hard to think that he’d say that he’d found McClaren would say one thing to your face which his actions would then contradict, is anything other than the truth. Mills also said he was quick with the warm words which again, were contradicted by his actions. You don’t need to be a psychologist to see that this is a bloke who doesn’t like confrontation and would rather lie to a player than tell him bad news.

None of this bodes well for England. You could argue the way he treated Beckham was consistent with his inability to give a player bad news. His insistence that the door was still open for DB was clearly a lie and if he’d been a more honest man he’d just have said so.

His over reliance on spin doctors and media management also show a man who is at the very least, insecure about how he is perceived. But ironically this just compounds the problem because it makes him appear evasive and weak.

At a time when England needs a revolution of attitude and of playing staff, the last thing we need is a conservative coward in charge who will flinch from tough decisions, who will alienate players with poor man-management skills and dubious tactical prowess.

I said late last year that I fully expect England to struggle badly to qualify for Euro 2008 and it won’t surprise me if we fail to qualify. The upcoming friendly with Spain is a chance for McClaren to show us he’s got balls and is prepared to think outside of the failed default parameters. If he doesn’t break up the Gerrard/Lampard midfield by dropping one or both of them, it will tell us all we need to know about the rest of his tenure.

However, above all this, his appointment it reflects disastrously on the cretins at the FA who gave him the job in the first place. A political decision made out of expediency can never come to any good. If history proves me wrong I shall be delighted. But it won’t. Sadly.

John Nicholson writes each week for Football 365 and EPL Talk. You can listen to John’s wonderful stories on episode 30 and 45 of the EPL Talk Podcast, as well as purchase his excellent Footy Rocks book and order one of his unique rock’n roll T-shirts.