AS A Middlesbrough fan, my opinion of Steve McClaren is going to be slightly biased, but I think Derby County could have done a lot worse than appointing the former England manager.
On a personal level, he gave me probably the best night I have experienced as a football supporter.
On Thursday, April 27, 2006, I watched Boro come back from the dead against Steaua Bucharest to reach the UEFA Cup final.
His time coaching the national team, culminating in that infamous 3-2 defeat to Croatia at Wembley which ended the Three Lions’ chance of qualifying for the 2008 European Championships, will forever tarnish his record in the eyes of many football fans in this country.
His greatest successes – at Middlesbrough and FC Twente of the Netherlands – have come when he had money to spend, not great news for Derby fans.
I thought that Boro played good football during his reign, but reports from the continent suggest his style has become more defensive, and certainly his England team were not pretty to watch – but then, when have they ever been in recent history?
On the whole, though, his career has been one of success, including twice helping Derby get promoted.
As a player, the midfielder was part of the Rams side which won the old Third Division in 1985/86 – this after making more than 175 appearances for Hull City.
Spells followed with Bristol City and Oxford United, and he began his coaching career at the latter before rejoining Derby as assistant to Jim Smith.
The duo guided the Rams to promotion to the Premier League in 1995/96 before keeping them there the following season.
They parted ways in 1999 when McClaren replaced Brian Kidd as assistant manager to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and immediately helped the Reds to their historic treble as they claimed the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League in his first season at Old Trafford.
His first managerial role was with Middlesbrough, whom he guided to the FA Cup semi-finals in his first season, knocking out ex-employers United on the way.
In 2003, he earned Boro their first – and to date, only – piece of silverware as they beat Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at the Millennium Stadium.
That earned them European football the following season, as did that campaign’s seventh-placed finish in the Premier League – their highest-ever finish.
They had reached the last 16 of the UEFA Cup in 2005, but the following campaign they beat the likes of Roma and Stuttgart to set up a quarter-final tie with FC Basle of Switzerland that they won 4-3 after being 3-0 down, thanks to a late goal by Massimo Maccarone.
That earned them a semi-final against Steaua, and once again they found themselves trailing 3-0 after losing 1-0 in Romania and then conceding two early goals at the Riverside Stadium.
Maccarone was introduced in the 26th minute this time, and I remember from then onwards, we basically had one defender – ex-Rams man Chris Riggott – and nine men in Steaua’s half.
Maccarone scored within seven minutes of coming on before Mark Viduka and Riggott made it 3-3.
It looked like Steaua would hang on, but lightning struck again as Maccarone netted the winner to lift the roof off the Riverside and send Boro to Eindhoven for the final.
The less said about the 4-0 thrashing that followed, the better, but by then, McClaren had been named as Sven Goran-Eriksson’s successor.
Statistically, his England reign was not terrible, with a 50 per cent win record that puts him eighth, just behind current incumbent Roy Hodgson.
However, even with my rose-tinted spectacles, I cannot defend some of the football played during his 18-game spell – the shortest by any permanent manager in the country’s history – and failing to qualify for the European Championships for the first time in 24 years.
The inevitable sack followed, but he redeemed himself with a two-year spell with FC Twente which saw them lift their first-ever Eredivisie title, ahead of Martin Jol’s Ajax.
That success earned him a move to German outfit VFL Wolfsburg, but he was sacked nine months later, and his time with Derby’s fierce rivals Nottingham Forest was similarly ill-fated and short-lived in a period of flux for the Reds.
He returned to Twente but could not replicate his previous success, and since July this year, has been part of Harry Redknapp’s coaching team at Queen’s Park Rangers.