In what seems like a move in damage limitation, England have scaled down their schedule of friendly matches from 20 to 18 over the four-year period from 2008. Steve ‘Malcolm’ McClaren had made it clear that he was in favour of scrapping some in favour of longer training camps.
"I want the flexibility to be able to control when we have friendlies. The key thing for me is getting more time with the players. If more time means get-togethers with no end result and we achieve something, yes, I would like that."
The FA has just issued a document and the 18 friendlies detailed within it will commence after Euro 2008.
"We are all one organisation and priority has to be the success of the England team," said FA director of communications Adrian Bevington.
"Executives, including chief executive Brian Barwick have already started discussing with Steve and his coaching staff the issues that have been raised"
noted Bevington, before making it clear that all friendly fixtures are discussed with the coach in advance.
"Every international date we look at we clearly will discuss with Steve and his coaching staff to take into account what they are looking to achieve." He added further;
"We have got fixtures that are almost in place for various dates at Wembley because that’s part of the discussion and contracts that have been in the pipeline for some time. There are several dates that have been filed but certain ones that haven’t."
McClaren suggested the recent friendly against Spain – which England lost 1-0 – had not been productive. "Maybe this one came at a bad time. We ended up using it as an experiment, because we didn’t have seven or eight of our senior players," he added.
"The Greece friendly in August was a good one – and we needed a reaction in Holland in November, so it was important to get our best players available on that occasion."
In the middle of all this, we’ve got some daunting European qualifiers coming up which McClaren has vowed to fight to get back to some decent form. The defeat to Spain last week stretched his winless run to four matches and heaped growing pressure on McClaren, who took charge last August.
"I’m fighting hard," McClaren told BBC Five Live. "Not just for myself but for the whole team.
"It’s difficult under the weight of criticism but you have to take it. We are going to stick together and fight." [Mof Gimmers]