Steve McClaren says England’s humiliation at the hands of Slaven Bilic’s Croatia almost “killed” his managerial career.
West Ham United’s manager guided his country to a famous 3-2 win over McClaren’s England at Wembley almost eight years ago.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it did nearly kill me! But I survived.Steve McClaren
That result cost England a place in Euro 2008 – and McClaren his job.
Newcastle United head coach McClaren went on to rehabilitate his reputation abroad with Dutch club FC Twente.
But the 54-year-old – who came under fire for using an umbrella to shield himself from a downpour at Wembley – admits it was hard to find work in the aftermath of his sacking.
McClaren said: “It was the lowest I got, but you need these things and they happen for a reason.
“You either slink off, or try to come back with more of a determination.
“It was very, very easy to want to prove people wrong – although it was difficult to get a job.
“They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and it did nearly kill me! But I survived.
“It wasn’t a good night, but it was nothing about Croatia or Slaven, it was about England and myself.”
McClaren is looking forward to meeting Bilic again on Monday night when Newcastle take on West Ham at Upton Park.
“We got on very well,” he said. “We have the same passion for football.
“He’s gaining huge respect in football, going from a player to national team boss and now club football and doing well. He’s the perfect fit for West Ham.”
McClaren later met Bilic during his time in charge of Wolfsburg.
“He was very humble and gracious,” he added. “He spoke very well after that game and always has. We know it’s a sport, it’s not life or death – although it nearly was for me!”
Bilic, appointed successor to Sam Allardyce in the summer, spoke warmly about McClaren ahead of the game.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Steve McClaren again,” he said.
“We will both remember that night with contrasting emotions, but that was then and has no relevance to our jobs now.
“I have had the opportunity to meet Steve since. When I was Croatia coach I made sure I watched our players for their clubs, no matter where they were.
“I paid a visit to Wolfsburg, then managed by Steve, to check on Mario Mandzukic.
“We had a chat for a couple of hours and I thoroughly enjoyed his company. Steve is a very good coach, as he has proved in Holland, but just as important he is a real gentleman and I like him a lot.”