McClaren ready to accommodate Hargreaves

August 15, 2006

Steve McClaren admits the World Cup heroics of Owen Hargreaves convinced him to reshuffle the England midfield.

Hargreaves will partner Frank Lampard at the heart of McClaren's first team with Steven Gerrard switched to the right.

McClaren has named his team for tomorrow's friendly against Greece but his plans to hand a debut to Dean Ashton were wrecked when the West Ham striker broke his left ankle in training.

Ashton was due to start but now faces up to three months on the sidelines - and the England manager admitted the injury had 'clouded' his day.

Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch will lead the attack in Ashton's absence but the England boss will look for a reaction from his new-look midfield.

McClaren explained: 'The key thing that came out of the World Cup was the emergence of Owen Hargreaves and everyone will agree because he was voted our player of the World Cup.

'We've always talked about having someone in that midfield who can sit and hold and it's a natural role for Owen to do.

'The emergence of Owen has just changed things a little bit and I think improved us.'

Gerrard and Lampard have never produced their prolific Premiership form in England shirts.

McClaren discussed Gerrard's game at length with Rafael Benitez last week and has decided to move the Liverpool skipper out wide against the Greeks.

The England boss said: 'Stevie's played on the right-hand side a lot of time for Liverpool and scored 23 goals last season.

'I had a very good chat with Rafael Benitez last week just talking about Steve and his role at Liverpool and trying to transfer that over into the England team.

'I spoke with Stevie and he is delighted with that. He will play anywhere for England.

'I'm trying to get blend and balance in the short space of time we've got to plan and work for this game

'We've only got two sessions and I wanted to put the players in positions they play for their clubs.

'That's the key to it. Hopefully we will get the cohesion flowing.'

On the left, Stewart Downing will start his first England game.

Chelsea's Joe Cole is injured but McClaren's insistence that he wants to play with balance and width must cast doubts about Cole's future role in the team.

The new England boss will start his reign with a traditional 4-4-2 system like the one used so often by Sven-Goran Eriksson before he abandoned it at the World Cup and switched to a five-man midfield.

McClaren said: 'It's just one of two or three systems which I hope to look towards over the next couple of years.

'I like the width on the left and a narrow midfield. Stewart gives me great balance on the left.'

McClaren and his new coaching staff worked with the players at Old Trafford today but the training session was overshadowed by Ashton's injury.

Captain John Terry said he heard the scream from the other end of the Old Trafford pitch and knew it was serious straight away.

McClaren said: 'He went over on his ankle. It's very unfortunate and it clouded the morning.

'It's always sad to see any player getting injured on the training field and especially Dean, who had just come into the squad and was looking forward to his opportunity.'

Ashton, 22, was the one fresh face in McClaren's England squad and his unfortunate early exit leaves the team with a familiar feel.

Eriksson's trusted back-four remains intact but Defoe is recalled with a point to prove after being axed from the World Cup squad in favour of untried teenager Theo Walcott.

McClaren said: 'Jermain was close to World Cup squad and he has always impressed me.

'He is a confidence player. He needs the trust of a coach and team-mates and he has that.

'He has an opportunity and, yes, he has something to prove, but everyone has.'

The England manager also expects to see a new attitude pulsing through the team.

McClaren said: 'We are looking at one or two different things and the shape of the team is one of them.

'I am looking for the attitude when we don't have the ball and do have the ball.

'I am looking for possession and keeping the ball better than we have in the past.'

The new manager wants a good display to launch the new era and restore faith in the national team after their World Cup efforts fell short of expectations.

Old Trafford will be only half-full for the friendly against the European Champions.

McClaren said: 'We have to convince the fans. We want to give a performance of which the fans will be proud.

'The players should be proud to wear the shirt - no matter what the game is.

'It's a friendly but we want to win and play well - and put things in place for the future.'