To the surprise of few and the ecstasy of many, Steve McClaren has officially stepped down as manager of FC Twente, with Alfred Schreuder taking over as caretaker boss. The move follows Twente's 2-1 loss to Heerenveen over the weekend, running the club's winless streak to six games. Per the BBC, McClaren said:
"We talked about how we could change the situation and relieve the pressure on the team which has clearly affected its performance," said McClaren.Twente's recent run has been nothing short of a disaster. After having been atop the Eredivisie table for quite a bit of the season, the Tukkers have fallen six points behind leaders PSV. It's not a massive deficit but Twente's form has offered no belief whatsoever that this poor run of form will turn around too drastically.
"Unfortunately, Saturday's result has seen further adverse reactions and, with two home games coming up, we feel the team needs the support and backing from the supporters.
"I also needed assurances about my position now and in the future, which I appreciate in the present situation is difficult. After much discussion and deliberation, those assurances weren't forthcoming."
For McClaren, this is a case of getting out while the getting is good. It was back in 2009-10 that McClaren helped to deliver Twente its first Eredivisie title in history. Upon returning last year, he hasn't been able to recreate the magic of that title-winning year. When he first took the Twente job in 2008, McClaren didn't have to deal with the weight of expectations that he did in his second go-around.
Coming back to a club you've left previously is always a tough proposition for any coach. With McClaren, there were certainly expectations when he took over in 2008. Fast forward a few years and those demands went through the roof as anything less than a title would be considered a disappointment.
He simply seemed ill-equipped to handle that kind of pressure, and the supporters turned on him in recent weeks. They were very open during matches with their displeasure and began calling for McClaren's sacking and hanging "Go Home Steve" banners in De Grolsch Veste. The outcry was probably not quite as virulent as the backlash toward Rafa Benitez from Chelsea supporters or Steve Kean when he was manager of Blackburn Rovers. It was very prevalent nonetheless.
For both sides, the only move left for McClaren and Twente was to amicably part ways. The Tukkers have Ajax coming into Enschede this Saturday and Vitesse the following Sunday. If there was ever a time to reignite the domestic campaign for Twente, it's this week.
McClaren might have gone out on his own terms but the writing was on the wall. Joop Munsterman gave the cliched vote of confidence earlier in the week, which ironically almost always precedes the termination of any coach or manager.
Twente is simply a mess out on the pitch. Their attack has been an issue all season, with the club only managing 40 goals on the year. Part of the problem has absolutely nothing to do with McClaren and his tactics.
Luuk de Jong was going to leave a huge hole when he left for Borussia Mönchengladbach. Luc Castaignos was brought in from Inter Milan to be the replacement. On paper, despite the nightmare Castaignos had at the San Siro, he would surely fill in some of de Jong's lost production. Instead, he's been one of the most disappointing players in the Eredivise. His eight goals aren't terrible, but Castaignos has more often than not disappeared during games, offering no help in the attack. Sacking McClaren is not going to all of a sudden make Castaignos find his form.
Recently, Nacer Chadli has been out with a hamstring injury. He was also hurt earlier in the season and has only been able to appear in 14 matches this season. Not having him in the lineup is a major detriment to the Twente attack.
Where McClaren can be blamed is in how he sent out his players, especially during this most recent poor run of form. He looks exasperated on the touchline and completely out of ideas. In addition, there has been no urgency on the pitch. Twente's attack has been limp lately, often dominating possession and doing nothing with it. The players look lost on the pitch, completely bereft of any way to get the ball in the back of the net. It's not that they have stopped caring about the results on the pitch, as many players, Felipe Gutierrez in particularly, looking despondent at the final whistle on Saturday.
McClaren is also not in a position to rue top players leaving De Grolsch Veste. That's the reality every Dutch club must face, so it's nothing unique to Twente. Since the summer of 2010, Twente has sold de Jong, Cheick Tiote, Bryan Ruiz, Ola John. However, Munsterman and the rest of the Twente board have shown a willingness to spend money, as evidenced by the transfers of Castaignos, Chadli, Leroy Fer and Dusan Tadic. Munsterman has every right to expect a return on that investment even with PSV splashing the kind of cash they did.
This could be a potentially damning event for McClaren. Despite winning the Eredivisie title, many of his countrymen will forever remember him as the "Wally with the Brolly," no matter what he achieves across Europe. Leaving Twente will do nothing to silence the critics who argue that McClaren is a very tactically inept manager. He led Middlesbrough to the 2006 UEFA Cup Final, with many under the belief that Boro made it in spite of the manager. Then there were the failures with England, Nottingham Forest and Wolfsburg. Poor Steve McClaren can't catch a break.
Twente is where McClaren has hit the pinnacle of his managerial career, yet could consequently be where said managerial could be irreparably damaged.