McClaren rants against Premiership fixture list

August 11, 2007

England coach Steve McClaren has slammed the crazy Barclays Premier League fixture schedule which has wrecked any hope of a meaningful build-up to Wednesday's friendly with Germany.

Although McClaren has named a 28-man squad for the Wembley clash, 12 of them will not be available for Monday's planned training session as they are due to figure in key league encounters the previous day.

Recognising the potential difficulties, McClaren made representation to the Premier League long before the fixture lists were released.

Yet, just like predecessor Sven-Goran Eriksson, McClaren has not been able to make any tangible difference to the situation even if he has been able to build up a close rapport with Premier League chairman Sir David Richards.

It means that tomorrow, McClaren will spend his afternoon as a TV pundit at Anfield, desperately hoping he is not required to comment on a major injury scare from either the Manchester derby at Eastlands, or Liverpool's crucial encounter with Chelsea.

'We talk about helping England and England becoming successful but you have got to have a bit of help,' he said.

'I don't think going into a friendly against Germany with so many of our team being involved in big games against each other is going to help us one little bit.

'In preparation terms, it probably means we will get an hour on Tuesday to get ourselves ready for the game on Wednesday.

'It is something I am not happy about and I have expressed that unhappiness to the Premier League fixtures people.

'These points were made when Sven was in charge and they have been made again. But apparently, it is water off a duck's back.'

While the games at Manchester City and Liverpool did not necessarily have to be screened tomorrow, McClaren recognises TV broadcasters want top games shown at prime times.

His argument really concerns why such games were slotted into the fixture list at a time of the season when they were bound to cause him a problem, as it will be McClaren rather than the Premier League who get the blame from fans if England fail this week.

'I don't know how to resolve the issue or know what the answer is,' he said.

'You cannot escape the fact TV has made our league the best in the world.

'I just know it doesn't help England. All we can do is voice our opinions and keep hammering at the door.'

McClaren can only dream of a scenario such as the one Sir Clive Woodward enjoyed in the build-up to England's glorious rugby union World Cup triumph in 2003 when the leading clubs released their players for weekly training sessions.

The former Middlesbrough boss knows he will never find himself in such a position.

What he can do is try to persuade all the game's authorities there is potential for a better fixture calendar than they have at the moment.

With no imminent likelihood of the Premier League reducing to 18 teams, it would still be possible to extend the season by a couple of weeks in order to incorporate a winter break senior figures within the game such as Sir Alex Ferguson have been demanding for years.

Not only would such a move plug the gap between the final league fixtures and a FIFA designated international date in June, it would also avoid the kind of crammed programme of games clubs who reach major finals frequently find themselves trying to cope with.

'We will still keep beating the door down about having a winter break because I think it will help ultimately our players towards the end of the season, not just England but at club level as well,' he said.

'In that last season at Middlesbrough, we had 64 games.

'We ended it in a UEFA Cup final when we had to play four games in eight days prior to the final on a Wednesday.

'That is not ideal preparation. With the way things are at the moment, we are just not helping England and English clubs.'