Steve McClaren explains 5 key factors required to win a cup final

Steve McClaren highlights five key pointers when preparing for a cup final.

Ahead of Manchester City’s League Cup final success over Arsenal in February, Sky Sports asked former England, Derby and Middlesbrough boss McClaren to outline five key points required to be successful in a big game.

Some of his points are interesting, others not so much…

It’s worth pointing out that McClaren’s coaching career has not been quite what it promised to be after the 56-year-old guided Boro to League Cup glory in Cardiff in 2004. Big things were expected from McClaren but he has flirted with success rather delivering consistently. However, he did taste glory with the Teessiders with a 2-1 victory over Bolton via two goals in the first seven minutes of the match and he won theĀ Eredivisie title in Holland with Twente.

McClaren also spent two years as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant manager at Manchester United between 1999-2001 – and was part of the backroom team in 1999 when they claimed the famous Double.

He went on to take the England reins for 18 months and was axed after England failed to make the 2008 European Championship, but he still has a proud record of almost an 45% win ratio and is still a well-respected coach worldwide.

And although his pointers are most evidently from his experience in Cardiff from over a decade ago and some of them can be glossed over, the ideas on preparation and inspiration are interesting.

McClaren’s 5 Factors

Strongest team

“Always play your strongest team. When I was at Middlesbtough the first year I played a weakened team at Ipswich and we lost 1-0 and the chairman Steve Gibson went ballistic at me. So from there on in I always played my best XI.”


“All games are won in your preparation Monday to Friday and big games are all about preparation. Get your media work done, sort your final tickets for your family and friends. In big games you have a tendency to over coach with all the information about the opponents. In fact its about not over coaching. My staff said we had too many sessions and so we halved them and had some fun and relaxed and made sure they were ready for the final. So don’t over coach, just keep going with momentum.”


“The players are all motivated to win but what is key thing is inspiration; giving them a purpose together which is greater than what the individuals want themselves. We picked a speech from Al Pacino in ‘Any Given Sunday’. That is a speech on how you win big games and how it is won by inches and we played that one hour before the final in the dressing room. And after the film everybody was motivated and emotional and in the right state. There were some tears and it really was inspiring and I knew then we were going to win the game.”

Start quick

“You get all the preceding three things right. I was actually changing from my tracksuit into my suit and just saw the penalty to put us 2-0 up (after 7 minutes) and I said to my staff ‘we’re definitely ready to play’.”


“You need it. There are three or four defining moments on any game and in big games they have got to go your way. For example our penalty from Zenden was with his left foot and he slipped and it hit his right foot – a double touch and they have been disallowed for that since, but we got away with it. That was the biggest slice of luck we got.”

Matthew Briggs