England coach feeling the heat

LONDON (AP) The criticism is getting to Steve McClaren.

A day after England struggled for the first 54 minutes during a 3-0 win over Andorra in a European Championship qualifier, the coach ended his news conference after just two questions.

“Gentlemen, if you want to write whatever you want to write, you can write it because that is all I am going to say,” McClaren said Thursday. “Thank you.”

The former Middlesbrough manager, who replaced Sven-Goran Eriksson after the World Cup, was derided by hostile English fans before, during and after the game in Barcelona, Spain.

Fans chanted “What a load of rubbish!” and “You’re not fit to wear the shirt!”

After the victory, which ended a five-game winless streak, they switched to: “Still want McClaren out!”

“There is a line to draw between acceptable criticism and personal vilification and abuse. One’s fair, the other isn’t,” Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick said in a statement.

“I know how hard Steve and everyone connected to the team is working. He’s a strong man and I know from speaking with him just how determined he is to deliver success for England.”

British bookmakers offered 11-8 odds that McClaren will no longer be coach by the end of qualifying for the 2008 Euros.

His assistant, Terry Venables, and Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill are joint favorites to replace McClaren at 5-1.

“Nothing could dispel the memory of the most shapeless, dispiriting, depressing evening English football has endured for decades, a night of near-disaster that was utterly unacceptable,” The Mirror newspaper wrote Thursday.

Captain John Terry pleaded with fans to support the team and McClaren.

“We take full responsibility and it’s just not fair to hear some of those chants, especially during the game,” Terry said. “Every single one of us took it in — and it wasn’t nice.”

England (3-1-2), in danger of missing a major tournament for the first time since the 1994 World Cup, is tied for second in Group B with Israel (3-1-2) and Russia (3-0-2), two points behind Croatia (4-0-1).

Only the top two nations qualify automatically.

UEFA ponders move

BRUSSELS (AP) The winners of Europe’s major domestic cup competitions could gain berths into the Champions League.

UEFA said Thursday it was considering the option as part of the planned reform of its premier club competition. Cup winners currently gain entry into the lower-level UEFA Cup.

“Perhaps we can move certain cup winners into the Champions League,” said William Gaillard, the special adviser to UEFA president Michel Platini.

Germany, England, Spain and Italy get four spots in the Champions League, but Platini has said he wants to reduce that to three to increase parity in the competition.

It could be reduced to three plus the cup winner.

“We will have to look at this in the strategic council,” Gaillard said of the body set up to assess competition changes.