McClaren to soldier on
Steve McClaren has defiantly declared that he is still the man to take England forward.
McClaren's team are facing the prospect of elimination from the race for Euro 2008 but the beleaguered head coach insists he loves the job and wants to remain at the helm.
Should Russia only draw in Israel next Saturday, England will go through to the Euro 2008 finals if they beat Group E leaders Croatia at Wembley four days later.
But a win for Russia would almost certainly extinguish any lingering hope, with Guus Hiddink's side fully expected to beat minnows Andorra in their final game.
Yet McClaren, grateful for the support of English Football Association chiefs, maintained: "I am the man take England forward and I really do believe that. I believe I can do the job.
"That's purely on the evidence of what we've done over the last seven or eight months, and certainly on how we handled the aftermath of the games away to Israel and Andorra.
"I believe we've turned it around and we're going forward. The team has come together and I've received backing from everyone in the organisation, from the likes of Brian Barwick, Noel White, Dave Richards and the chairman, Geoff Thompson.
"After Andorra, they were very supportive and have been all the way through. I've had the support of the players as well and that is reflected in the performances.
"I love working with this team, I love this job, and this team will go on in the future and be successful. I think we deserve to qualify for the European Championships. I think we do purely on our performances of late.
"I want to go on and I don't want to let anyone down. I have faith and belief in these players - I think that's the key. The performances we've had give me that.
"I want more time with the players. The first six or seven months were difficult and we've taken a few hits, like the Macedonia game which we should have won.
"But I can look at the way we've been playing of late and say, 'That's how I want an England team to play'."
On questions of whether his position will be untenable if England fail to qualify, McClaren said: "It's my responsibility and I'm not shying away from it or making excuses.
"It's a viable debate, but I can't be involved in that, it's for other people to decide."
McClaren is pinning hopes on Israel holding Russia in Tel Aviv. He said: "Going away to Israel is very tough for anybody - we proved that. They're a proud nation and they have a fantastic home record.
"We have to get behind Israel, we need a performance and I think they know that. I have to hope and believe that results will go right next Saturday and we will go into the Croatia game with our destiny in our own hands. Then, the judgements will be made.
"Whatever happens with Croatia, it will be a tough game at Wembley, whether they are through and relaxed or whether they need a result.
"We'll know by next Saturday night and I hope to god that we need a result. I think the Croatia game will take care of itself because I think we've proved in recent performances at Wembley that we're on good form there.
"The fans will get behind us and I hope it goes to that game, because I'll be very confident."
McClaren has recalled a fit-again David Beckham to the squad, and added: "David is a big-game player, an experienced player, and he's never let England down.
"He's in the squad. That doesn't guarantee him a place in the team or on the bench, but he's an invaluable member of the squad."
Before the Croatia game, England travel to Austria for a friendly next Friday, and McClaren added: "Austria is a big game because we're preparing for Croatia and that has to be my message to the players.
"We can give the likes of Ashley Cole and David Beckham a game, but it's preparation for Croatia."