The Wolves' 1-0 derby loss to Hanover this weekend made one thing very clear - Steve McClaren had lost control of the team. And now the first-ever English coach in the Bundesliga has lost his job as well.
After Saturday's loss it was lights out for McClaren
Bundesliga club VfLWolfsburg announced on Monday that coach Steve McClaren had been sacked with immediate effect. He'll be succeeded by assistant Pierre Littbarski.
McClaren's sacking came after Wolfsburg lost to their local rivals Hanover for the first time since 2006. Despite a tepid performance, they had an excellent chance to again avoid defeat in the closing stages, when they were awarded a penalty: A perfect opportunity for newly-signed striker Patrick Helmes to score his first goal for the team and rescue a point.
But playmaker Diego, who transfered to Wolfsburg for 15.5 million euros ($21 million) last fall, had other ideas.
"The trainer yelled out for me to take the penalty," Helmes told reporters after the match. "But [Diego] said he had a good feeling."
Predictably, the Brazilian grabbed the ball, hit the crossbar and was left trying to defend himself against accusations of selfish mutiny.
"Of course normally we have to score, and I didn't," a sheepish Diego said. "That was my mistake, but I didn't see any other option."
Hmm. Soldiers told to storm the beaches of Normandy or be shot in the back have no option. Diego's obvious alternative was to let Helmes take the penalty - as his coaches and teammates were demanding.
The act of rebellion turned his head coach's face an apoplectic shade of crimson.
"We nearly ran onto the field to get the instructions over," McClaren fumed. "Then I turn around, and Diego takes it. Everyone can miss, but the disappointing thing is that the decision which was made was overruled. That's unacceptable and something we must deal with."
But the fact that McClaren could be overruled spoke volumes about his weak standing with his squad - and represented a new lowlight in a career that has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs.
Out in the rain
Diego's missed penalty opened up a huge can of worms
McClaren is perhaps best known for leading the dismal England side that failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championship. Images of him standing in the rain, as he watched the Three Lions go down to a decisive defeat at home to Croatia, earned him the derisive nicknames "the Wally with the Brolly" and "Steve McClown."
But the affable Englishman resurrected his career in the Netherlands, leading outsiders Twente to their first-ever Eredivisie title and a highly respectable second-place finish in his time there between 2008 and 2010.
That unlikely success convinced Wolfsburg commercial manager Dieter Hoeness that McClaren was the man to resurrect the Wolves, who had drifted back down to mediocrity after winning the Bundesliga title in 2009.
The Wolves were hoping McClaren would bring some English-Dutch flair to a side packed with offensive quality. What they got was a series of minor humiliations.
Early in the season, Wolfsburg managed to lose to Mainz despite taking a three-goal lead. And this winter their top player, striker Edin Dzeko, forced a transfer to Manschester City and criticized the club for letting Diego's predecessor Zvjezdan Misimovic go to accomodate the Brazilian.
Diego speaks very good English for a Brazilian footballer, but there is no doubt that he and his coach had a communication problem.
Baying for blood
Hoeness must try to right Wolfsburg's listing ship
The man who decided McClaren's fate was Hoeness, who himself has won few friends since becoming commercial manager in January 2010.
Hoeness publicly criticized McClaren's ill-guided attempt early in the season to force the Wolves into a 4-2-3-1 system, which played against the team's strengths. And fee, fi, fo, fum, the Hanover defeat had many Wolves supporters baying for the blood of an Englishman.
"We were no longer convinced that we could maintain stability until the end of the season with Steve McClaren," Hoeness told reporters after the firing was announced.
"For us, all that matters now, is to put more distance between ourselves and the relegation zone," he said.
Diego, for his part, has been suspended by the club for next week's match against Hamburg. And according to the German daily Bild, Wolfsburg are considering fining him 100, 000 euros.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Rob Turner