The Derby manager spent just a year in charge of the Three Lions - the shortest tenure of any in their history - and admits the pain of failure to qualify for Euro 2008 still hurts
McClaren will be back at Wembley on Saturday, leading Derby County in their Championship play-off final against QPR, with not only a spot in the Premier League on the line but a chance to exorcise ghosts of the past.
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McClaren concedes the national team hotseat was too big for him at the time, telling reporters: "At the time I thought I was ready but the job finds out that you're not ready.
"I didn't have the experience and, together with a little bit of bad luck as well along the way, it didn't work out.
"The biggest thing that hurt me that night, and ever since, was the failure to qualify. That is the biggest thing. It was nothing about anything else. As I said on the night, it felt like I'd let the nation down.
"That's what I've had to live with. That's the hardest thing. Nothing else – like 'The Wally with the Brolly.'
"The disappointment will not go away and that still hurts, but you have to get on with life and football."
The former Manchester United assistant has gone a long way to rebuild his reputation, guiding Twente to the Eredivisie title in 2010, while he also went on to coach Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.
And he could cap a remarkable turn in fortunes if he delivered top-flight football to Derby, though he says his team are the underdogs for Saturday's blockbuster against big-spending QPR.
"There's a lot of pressure on QPR," said McClaren. "It's a necessity they go up really and I know that from being there. QPR's time is now.
"When we came in the door here, we said we had two-and-a-half or three years to get Derby back into the Premier League. We will have our opportunity again if we don't take it now."