Steve McClaren

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Not again: McClaren’s second Derby tenure ends same as his first

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DERBY, England (AP) Derby County has fired former England manager Steve McClaren for the second time in less than two years and delivered a damning critique of his reign.

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The second-tier League Championship club says there has been a “significant, unexpected and persistent decline in results, team unity and morale.”

The 55-year-old McClaren returned to the central England club in October, following his May 2015 dismissal. Derby has won once in nine league matches and is 10 points from the playoff places with nine games remaining.

[ MORE: Spurs join Arsenal, Man City in FA Cup semis | Kane injured ]

Chairman Mel Morris says “the heartbeat, commitment, focus and passion has been lacking something fundamental.”

McLaren is the last England manager to fail to qualify for a tournament, losing his job after 18 months in 2007 after missing out on the 2008 European Championship.

17 months later, McClaren returns to Derby County as manager

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DERBY, England (AP) Former England coach Steve McClaren is back as manager of Derby County, 17 months after being fired by the club for failing to secure a return to the English Premier League.

Derby announced the appointment on Wednesday, with McClaren saying he was “delighted at the prospect of finishing what we started.”

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After leaving Derby, McClaren was hired by Premier League club Newcastle but lasted just nine months before being sacked.

McClaren, who coached England from 2006-07, took charge of Derby for the first time in September 2013 and led the team to the League Championship playoff final that season, where it lost to Queens Park Rangers. The following season, Derby was top of the second tier with two months remaining but a poor run of form saw the team finish eighth and miss out on the playoffs.

The 55-year-old McClaren said “I regret how my time at Derby ended back in 2015 and I am very motivated to put things right for the club and our supporters. My ultimate aspiration remains exactly what it was before, to take Derby County back to the Premier League.”

Derby was last in the Premier League in 2008.

McClaren has signed a deal until 2018 as the replacement for Nigel Pearson, who left last week following a suspension and a club investigation into his conduct.

McClaren confident he would have saved Newcastle from relegation

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Steve McClaren was sacked at Newcastle Friday morning as the Magpies sit in the relegation zone with nine matches to play.

The 54-year-old Englishman lasted only nine months at St. James’ Park, a tumultuous time that saw him under heavy pressure from the moment he took charge.

[ MORE: Newcastle appoint Rafa Benitez ]

McClaren started the Premier League season without a win in his first eight matches and was never able to recover. Despite losing 16 of his 28 league matches in charge, McClaren still believes he would have been able to keep the Magpies safe from the drop.

I am obviously very disappointed with the decision.

I appreciate any frustrations relating to the team’s results and the club subsequently finding itself in a battle to avoid relegation.

I remain confident, however, that we would have stayed in the Premier League with a view to building for next season.

While McClaren sounds confident now, his side surely hasn’t shown that confidence on the pitch. The club has stumbled through the season with three separate three-match losing streaks, leading to public comments from McClaren about how frustrating they were to manage.

[ VIDEO: Analyzing the Premier League’s relegation battle ]

Newcastle spent big in both the summer and January transfer windows, although results have not followed. Now it is all up to Rafa Benitez, who has nine matches to keep one of England’s most historic clubs up in the Premier League.

Why would Rafael Benitez take over at Newcastle?

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With Steve McClaren fired by Newcastle United on Friday, former Valencia, Liverpool, Inter Milan, Chelsea, Napoli and Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has replaced him.

One of the biggest questions about Benitez coming in is: why?

[ MORE: McClaren fired by Newcastle ]

Benitez, 55, was fired by Real Madrid in January but his pedigree of managing some of the top teams in the world is remarkable. Quite why he is ready to risk his managerial reputation and dive head first into a relegation battle is perplexing, but he’s doing it.

The Spanish coach arrived on Friday and after days of negotiations, he will officially replace McClaren. The biggest change here is that he was named as the new “manager” and not “head coach” as a huge reshuffle in how the club is run is expected.

Benitez has signed a three-year deal — his first game in charge could be against Leicester City (Watch live, 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) next Monday — and if he fails to keep Newcastle in the Premier League he has a break clause to walk away.

That reported deal is worth $6 million a year, so there’s a big reason why Benitez could be willing to take this gamble. Money talks. But so does the opportunity to resurrect a giant.

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Benitez hasn’t been in a relegation battle before, but he has built something up from the bottom as he led Valencia to two La Liga titles and UEFA Cup success during his time at the Mestalla. Newcastle is a very similar size club to Valencia and if Benitez can save them this season, there’s the potential to push them back to the top 10 of the PL. But only the potential.

Plenty has to change from owner Mike Ashley downwards for that to come to fruition, but having a coach who has won the UEFA Champions League with Liverpool and has vast experience in the top flights of Spain, Italy and England should be enough for Newcastle’s notoriously hands on directors to hand over the reins to Benitez and his talented backroom staff. Remember, Newcastle were title contenders in the PL not too long ago. They are a huge club with a huge fanbase, but something has been rotten for a long-time and Benitez may soon find out he’s bitten off more than he can chew as the expectant fans heap huge pressure on the players and the coach.

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The Magpies currently sit in 19th place and have 24 points from their opening 28 games of the season, but sit just one point from safety with North East rivals Sunderland, plus Norwich City also in the battle against the drop. It seems almost certain that two of those three teams will join Aston Villa (all but doomed) in the Championship next season, but Newcastle do play Sunderland, Norwich, Swansea and Villa in their remaining 10 games so there’s plenty of points to pick up against relegation rivals.

So, what does Benitez have to work with?

Players like Daryl Janmaat, Jonjo Shelvey and Georginio Wijnaldum have all shown glimpses of their star quality, but they need help. Especially in defense. Benitez is know for providing stability and setting his teams up to defend, so he has to improve Newcastle’s defensive frailties (they’ve conceded 53 goals this season, the third-most in the PL) if they’re going to have any chance of staying up.

McClaren couldn’t get the most out of these talented players and they are under-performing massively. Newcastle spent the fourth-highest amount among PL clubs on new players this season, with $115 million dished out. Benitez’s aim is to now get the best out of what he has between now and May 15 and then, hopefully, he can rebuild the squad. At least it seems like there is now money to spend at Newcastle, but Benitez must spend it wisely if he gets the chance and he’ll certainly have a queue of players who have always been loyal to him who will want to join him once again in England.

Behind-the-scenes, long-term, Benitez will have to make big changes as the Ashley regime has several long-standing members who have largely flown under the radar but have a huge say in transfers and the soccer philosophy with chief scout Graham Carr, director Bobby Moncur and managing director Paul Charnley all seeming to have too much influence on what happens on the pitch. Benitez will want to change that and

Since the Premier League was founded eight teams have changed their manager in March, April or May and all eight have been relegated.

Benitez has a huge challenge on his hands, but if he can save a sleeping giant of English soccer this season maybe, and it’s a big maybe, he can help stir them from their lengthy slumber and finally fulfill their potential.

Steve McClaren fired as Newcastle manager

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Steve McClaren has finally been put out of his misery.

On Friday morning Newcastle United announced that McClaren, 54, has been fired as their manager with the former English national team manager lasting just nine months at St James’ Park.

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McClaren (who was also on the board of directors at Newcastle) has overseen a dreadful season so far for the Magpies  with just seven wins from his 32 games in charge in all competitions.

He leaves them in 19th place and battling against relegation with 10 games to go, despite spending over $115 million on new players which makes Newcastle the fourth-highest spenders this season. McClaren has won just four of his last 15 PL games in charge and the writing has been on the wall since their 3-1 defeat at home to Bournemouth last weekend.

In a statement released on the club website, Newcastle had the following to say:

After the defeat to Bournemouth on Saturday the Club has spent some time considering its position and has today concluded that Steve McClaren’s employment with the Club will end with immediate effect. We acknowledge that reaching this decision has taken a number of days and that this has caused uncertainty for everyone involved, in particular for Steve and the players, for which we apologize. However we felt that this time was necessary to ensure the right decisions were reached with the best interests of the Club at heart.

Lee Charnley said: “I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United. He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time.

“Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United. He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks. We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the Club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future. A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course.”

The heavy favorite to replace McClaren is former Real Madrid, Liverpool and Valencia manager Rafael Benitez.

The talk around Benitez is that he will initially take charge on a 10-game contract between now and the end of the season as he aims to first keep Newcastle in the Premier League, and if he manages to do that a three-year contract will kick in.

Newcastle have not commented about Benitez directly, but it is believed his representatives have already spoken with the club and he will tie up his move to the North East later on Friday.

Benitez’s first game in charge, if he is appointed, would be at leaders Leicester City (Watch live, 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) on Monday.