TODAY’S Wembley showdown was probably written in the stars once Steve McClaren left Queen’s Park Rangers earlier this season to become head coach at Derby County.
The two clubs go toe-to-toe in the Championship play-off final with promotion to the Premier League at stake.
McClaren said: “It’s a great story for the media isn’t it? A fairy-tale ending to the season.”
Unsuccessful spells at Nottingham Forest and Dutch club FC Twente – second time round – left McClaren out of work last summer and searching for a route back into English football.
“It was not a case of reminding people what I could so,” he said. “I’d had three months not working and I wanted to work.
“It was either going to Tesco for the weekly shop, doing the garden and playing a bit of golf or coaching a good football team. I think I made the right choice.”
McClaren had other choices. He said: “One or two interesting little propositions, but nothing that ever came to fruition.”
QPR faced life in the Championship following relegation from the Premier League and Redknapp would need to display all his powers as a manager to shape a team for the task ahead.
“I said to Harry after two weeks ‘You’ve got a tough job turning it around’ – and I think there was only Harry who could have done that job, I really do because there was a lot of work to do,” said McClaren.
“Harry did what Harry does best.
“There were a lot of players who didn’t want to be there, it really was that bad, and Harry had to be ruthless and they had to go.
“He then had to piece together a squad that could challenge to get back into the Premier League.
“I tell you, QPR could have gone very quickly down the leagues, as other clubs have done, if it hadn’t have been for Harry.
“A lot of neutrals will say he’s not done a good job at QPR. I think he’s done a terrific job, him and his staff.”
McClaren and Redknapp find themselves as rivals on the touchline at Wembley this afternoon.
“Six or seven months ago I would never have dreamed it would happen, especially after our first game against QPR at Loftus Road in November when the team had no belief,” said McClaren.
Derby lost 2-1. They then recorded seven straight wins and climbed to fourth.
“The belief has grown,” added McClaren. “When we beat QPR 1-0 in February that was a hurdle we needed to get over and we’ve taken it on from there.
“If someone had said we’d be in the play-offs, then QPR would be the one I wanted, absolutely.