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10 things you’ve forgotten about Steve McClaren’s actually quite good spell at FC Twente

The former England manager hasn't exactly been hugely popular in his home country at times... but for two years abroad, he was the man

The wally with the brolly. A flop. England’s worst ever manager.

Steve McClaren hasn’t always been Mr Popular on these shores, but for two years abroad less than a decade ago, he was the man.

Winning the Eredivisie with the much unfancied FC Twente topped off a remarkable spell in the Netherlands for the former Manchester United assistant coach, and was supposed to be his way of rehabilitating himself back into the harsh world of football management.


As it happened, his title-winning season still remains his career high – and here’s 10 things you probably would have forgotten about it in a very accessible internet format.

1 McClaren wasn’t even supposed to be the Twente manager

Getty Images

After some speculation that the Dutch club were in for McClaren the previous season, they released a statement to deny it was happening at all.

Which is weird, because it happened four weeks later.

2 The fans basically hated the idea of McClaren coming to Twente in 2008

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“Ninety per cent of fans think why him? But he is used to working with top players,” said chairman Joop Munsterman.

A 90% disapproval rating? Sheeeeeesh. That’s Donald Trump in 2018 type numbers.

3 Oh, we couldn’t forget… this interview

Still makes us shiver.

4 This guy was their star man

Action Images

That’s Bryan Ruiz, or ‘Bryan’ as he would call him on the back of his shirt, for some reason.

Ruiz scored 24 goals in the Eredivisie that season, a figure only eclipsed by a young Luis Suarez, who scored 35, yes 35, league goals for Ajax.

Anyone heard about Suarez since?

5 McClaren’s side barely conceded any goals


They didn’t score a great deal of goals, either, to be fair.

But no-one can sniff at 23 goal conceded in 34 league games, and that also included a whopping 17 clean sheets.

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6 Their goal difference was barely worthy of being champions


Look, we know champions are champions for a reason, but Twente finished the season with a goal difference of just +40.

That’s the lowest goal difference of any champion in over a decade, though Ajax came close the following year with their goal difference of +42.

To put that further into context, Luis Suarez’s haul for Ajax was over half the total goals scored by Twente.

7 Ajax will be fuming that they somehow lost the league

PA:Press Association

The stats say it all – Ajax scored 106 goals in the league, only conceded 20, and had a goal difference of +86.

Needless to say, they were sensational that year – but they somehow lost out to McClaren’s Twente, who had a goal difference of 46 goals fewer.

Football is nuts, isn’t it?

8 It all came down to a phenomenal final day of the season

PA:Press Association

With Twente a point ahead of second-placed Ajax, they simply had to equal or better the historic Dutch club’s final day result.

They beat NAC Breda 2-0, while Ajax did their best by beating NEC Nijmegen 4-1.

9 McClaren somehow put Twente’s league success into a bizarre perspective

VI Images/Press Association Images

“Winning the Carling Cup with Middlesbrough was special but this is pretty much right up at the top of anything I’ve ever done,” McClaren said afterwards.

Which is a bit like saying ‘Yeah, I used to have a Fiat Cinquecento and I didn’t think it could get better until I bought my Ferrari’.

10 McClaren genuinely became a hot property on the managerial market


Despite the league win, McClaren left Twente to become the first Englishman to manage a German club when he moved to Wolfsburg.

He was sacked months later, and moved to Nottingham Forest, in a period that was, as this writer can testify, spine-shudderingly poor.

He’s been on the managerial carousel a bit since then, but McClaren will always have that season at Twente.

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