Terry Duffelen
Wed 12 May 2010

The Challenge Facing McClaren at Wolfsburg

The former England boss, Steve McClaren, was linked with a move to the Bundesliga last Summer when Hamburg were deciding who would replace the Ajax-bound Martin Jol. How much truth their was behind the rumours is moot. Hamburg poached Bruno Labbadia from Bayer Leverkusen and McClaren stayed at FC Twente for another season to deliver the Eredivisie championship and fulfil the dreams of the people of Enschede. At least the ones that support their local team.

Having secured his place among the modern greats, a new and exciting opportunity awaits him in Lower Saxony as he attempts to put 2008/09 champions Wolfsburg back on course after a disappointing season.

His first challenge will be the disposal of top scorer Edin Dzeko. Many thought that the Bosnian would leave the Wolves with former coach Felix Magath at the end of their Championship winning season. However, for whatever reason, his preferred club AC Milan never ponied up sufficient dough to persuade the board to part with him and Dzeko agreed to sign a new contract. Nearly one year on and the consensus is that he will leave for a handsome fee. How much of that fee is made available to McClaren will depend on how much new blood he can bring into the squad.

The basis of the championship-winning squad is still there. Zjvezdan Misimovic, the playmaker, Grafite, Dzeko's strike partner (frequently linked with a move away) and Swiss international 'keeper Diego Benaglio form the basis of an experienced squad, more than capable of mounting a title challenge.

Wolfsburg (the club) are ambitious. Back by Volkswagen money, they have ambitions to become a regular Champions League club and take their place among the powerhouses of German football such as Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke and Stuttgart.

So the target for McClaren will be unambiguous. Champions League qualification at least with a tilt at the title as a bonus. One advantage McClaren will have is that his team will not have to juggle a European campaign next season after finishing a disappointing eighth in the Bundesliga.

The pressure will be on as expectations will be high. The last coach Armin Vey, himself a Bundesliga-winning coach with Stuttgart in 2007, was sacked half way through the season when it became apparent that he was not able to emulate the achievements of the previous campaign. However, one can argue that the post championship hangover is past now and the first Englishman to coach a Bundesliga club will have a clean slate to work with. I just can't wait to hear his accent.

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