Steve McClaren will have a chance for Wembley redemption when he leads Derby County out against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday to try and secure a place in the Premier League. The Championship play-off final will be the first time that McClaren will go back to Wembley as a manager since his England side were disastrously beaten 3-2 by Croatia to cost them a place at Euro 2008.
His choice of protection from the miserable conditions on that November night in 2007 led to McClaren being tagged the “wally with the brolly” by the notoriously unforgiving the British tabloid press. Unsurprisingly, he was been keen to play down the significance of his last visit ahead of Saturday’s crucial match.
“I know there’s a lot of talk about me going back to Wembley and the Croatia game, but Wembley holds happy memories for me as well,” he said, according to Derby County’s official website. “I was in charge of the England team when the first senior game was played at the new stadium against Brazil. It was a massive occasion and with a full house packed in we drew the game 1-1.
“That, for me, was something to remember and of course the last time I managed at Wembley it was a bad experience. “That’s football though; you have good and bad memories of each place you go to. I love Wembley and I always have.”
After a mixed time since that low point of his coaching career, McClaren has been a big success since leaving his role as part of QPR’s coaching staff and taking over at Pride Park from Nigel Clough earlier this season. With Derby languishing in 14th place in England’s second tier when he took over last September, McClaren led a squad based around youth to a third placed finish. In the semifinals of the play-offs, Derby dispatched Brighton and Hove Albion 6-2 on aggregate.
In contrast to Derby, QPR’s squad is full of Premier League experience and big earners. Both clubs will be desperate for the windfall that promotion to the Premier League brings, but it is QPR that have more pressure to do so given their perilous financial situation.
As well as the future of the club, there is also much doubt about the future of their manager Harry Redknapp should his side fail to claim victory at Wembley. With a squad featuring the likes of Joey Barton, Niko Kranjcar and prolific striker Charlie Austin, QPR were heavily favored to garner automatic promotion this season. Instead they faltered badly in the closing months of the season and could only finish fourth, five points behind Derby. Few will remember that, though, if QPR can secure their return to the Premier League after just a one-year absence.
“Getting promoted on Saturday would be right up there for me,” Redknapp said, according to QPR’s official website. “That was the aim at the start of the season. It’s been a long, hard campaign, but I really want it for the fans and the entire club.
“You can’t get too carried away with the occasion. You’ve just got to go out there and play your football. That’s the most-important thing. We’ve got to make sure we’re focused, have got clear heads and we play the way we want to play.”
Redknapp has no new fitness concerns, with Kranjcar and Benoit Assou-Ekotto set to recover from recent problems. Doubt, though, remains over the availability of defender Yun Suk-Young, who the Korea Football Association are adamant should be with them preparing for the World Cup. Derby will have midfielder Craig Bryson back available after he missed the second-leg of their victory over Brighton.
Where to watch: The Championship play-off final will kick off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports, with a live stream available on beIN Sports Play.