THE ENDURING MYTH OF GLENN HODDLE

The former England boss is being linked with a return to the national job, with just one question remaining…Why?

1st July 2006. England are knocked out of the World Cup on penalties by Portugal, the reign of Sven-Göran Eriksson is over, a media storm grows over Wayne Rooney’s stamp on Ricardo Carvalho and the reaction of Cristiano Ronaldo in the aftermath. Understandable then that on the same day, the resignation of the manager of the club who have finished 8th in the second tier would be nothing more than a footnote in many outlets, even allowing for that manager being Glenn Hoddle. This of course being deliberate on Hoddle’s part; why would he seek to have his gross failure at a Championship club played out on a slow news day? He purposely set out to time his resignation shortly before kick off of that England game in Gelsenkirchen, knowing that regardless of the result, it would drown out coverage of his latest departure from club football. A calculating move but as so often with Hoddle, entirely missing the point; if he’d applied as much thought to his management of Wolves, he wouldn’t have been forced to slink away and do so at the most opportune moment to cover up to the wider world what a disaster he’d been.

Hoddle1.jpeg
Coincidentally the same pose I pulled while watching most of his games.

So why is this relevant now? Well, once more England have had a tumultuous exit from a major tournament, and are once again looking for a new manager. At the time of writing, Hoddle is second favourite to succeed Roy Hodgson. Hoddle being linked to top jobs is nothing new of course; he’s routinely mentioned in the footballing media by Proper Football Men such as Ray Wilkins, Ian Wright and Kevin Keegan as some kind of coaching guru, a footballing sage sadly lost to the English game who just don’t bloody well understand his genius. This of course ignoring his actual record which we will return to and can be at best be described as uneven, if you were feeling particularly generous. However this time it appears to go beyond the witterings of the more banal end of the punditry scale; there appears to be actual traction in giving him another chance with the national team. A genuine chance this might happen. On numerous levels, this just makes no sense at all.

Like much in the world of sport, Hoddle’s reign as England manager appears to have been tinted with a significant helping of revisionism in the near 18 years since he left. Perception now seems to be that he was unfairly sawn off, that there was no footballing issue at all, he was merely told to go because of a media campaign surrounding unrelated comments he’d made regarding the disabled and reincarnation. However, when we actually examine his reign, it doesn’t stand up to a whole lot of scrutiny. It’s a litany of man management disasters and dodgy results.

  • Lost at home to Italy in qualification for the 1998 World Cup, playing Matt Le Tissier in an unfamiliar role as a conventional striker. Handed Ian Walker his first England start after David Seaman was ruled out with an injury, despite Walker himself carrying an injury. This was England’s first ever home defeat in a World Cup qualifying match.

  • Gave Le Tissier one final chance ahead of the World Cup to prove his credentials in a B international against Russia. Le Tissier scored a hat trick yet was still left out of the provisional squad for the tournament.

  • Presided over a 0-0 home draw with Saudi Arabia in a pre-tournament friendly, having previously lost at home to Chile earlier in the year.

  • Included an emotionally unstable Paul Gascoigne in the provisional squad, deciding after two tepid performances vs Morocco and Belgium in warm up games that he didn’t have the required level of fitness to make the final cut; didn’t inform Gascoigne in any way of his intentions prior to informing him of his exclusion. It’s almost certain that Gazza was no longer suitable for international football, but his fitness issues were well known before he was named for the squad and to have no dialogue with one of England’s most talented players of all time – someone with whom you would imagine Hoddle would empathise on at least some level – is a significant man-management failure.

  • Picked Les Ferdinand (five league goals in 97/98) ahead of Dion Dublin (eighteen league goals) for the final squad. Ferdinand went unused for the entire tournament and never played for England again.

  • Dropped David Beckham from the starting XI on the eve of the opening game vs Tunisia, allegedly due to his failure to perform a training drill to Hoddle’s satisfaction.

  • Failed to pick Michael Owen for the opening two games of the tournament, preferring Teddy Sheringham who had endured a tepid opening season with Manchester United.

  • Lost the second game of the World Cup to a moderate Romania team, condemning England to the tougher side of the draw (where they promptly lost to Argentina).

  • Opened qualifying for Euro 2000 with a dismal defeat in Sweden and a torpid 0-0 draw at Wembley with Bulgaria. When Hoddle left, England sat third in the group behind Sweden and Poland with their sole victory coming in Luxembourg.

Hoddle’s England tenure seems to be rose tinted by performances in Rome and Saint-Etienne against formidable Italy and Argentina teams; and there is little doubt that he did marshal the team well in those games, England playing with a hitherto little-seen tactical discipline. But England also failed to win either of those games. To ignore all his failures as noted above in favour of a pair of draws (one of which being ultimately fruitless after a defeat on penalties) seems remarkably generous. The football was possession-heavy, again a relative novelty at the time, but frequently lacking penetration and pace. Again the myth seems to be that Hoddle plays ‘good football’, when people actually mean that Hoddle favours a lot of short passing in his play. The two are mutually exclusive in this case.

Owen1
Remember, Glenn said this man was ‘not a natural goalscorer’.

We then turn to his club record. We alluded to his departure from Wolves at the start of the piece; in the intervening decade he has not managed anyone at all. Disconnected from front level management for that length of time, would any other major footballing country seriously consider such a candidate? This isn’t the time or place to pick over how incoherent and ultimately unsatisfying his reign at Molineux was – perhaps another time – but suffice to say that the following top flight finishes with Chelsea and Tottenham (full seasons only) since he left Swindon in 1993 also do not give us any indication that this is a man suitable for any kind of big job.

14th, 11th, 11th, 9th, 10th.

That’s the kind of record you would associate with someone such as Graeme Souness or Alan Curbishley rather than the supposed saviour of English football. He did, admittedly, do a good job at Swindon (well over 20 years ago, in the second tier, when he was still playing and also still the team’s best player) and his short term work at Southampton was sufficiently impressive to earn him the Tottenham job. But that all seems rather flimsy evidence on which to hand someone the national job.

Pulis1
Other mid-table managers are available.

Next we examine his character. We have already touched on his departure from Wolves and the scheming machinations behind it, where it was more important for him to cover his reputation than consider any other factors – worth noting for those non-Wolves supporting readers that this resignation left us without a manager, with a squad of around 15 senior outfield players and no signings lined up around five weeks before the start of the season. His departure from Southampton was acrimonious and left much bitterness between them and Tottenham for many years. However the central tenet of this aspect is that Hoddle was ultimately sacked for the comments he made which related to the rather strange set of religious beliefs he holds. It would be fair to assume that he still holds those beliefs, he hasn’t to anyone’s knowledge renounced his faith or re-assessed his position. If those beliefs were deemed to be unacceptable for the England manager in 1998, why would they be acceptable now? Or are they just ok providing that he doesn’t air them publicly again? The FA take a lot of criticism, much of it richly deserved, but they have made significant steps in recent times to promote disability football, offering significant funding and support to a side of the game which was previously much neglected. Can that really be countenanced with employing a man to the highest footballing office in the country who once said:

‘I have got an inner belief and an inner faith with God. I do believe spiritually we have to progress because we’ve been here before. The physical body is just an overcoat for your spirit. At death you take the overcoat off and your spirit will go on to another life in a spirit dimension.

‘I think we make mistakes when we are down here and our spirit has to come back and learn. That’s why there is an injustice in the world. Why there’s certain people born into the world with terrible physical problems and why there’s a family who has got everything right, physically and mentally.’

You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap.’

When you make such comments, I don’t personally believe that you can just wipe them clean because you made them a long time ago.

Lastly, if Hoddle hasn’t been managing anyone for the last ten years, what has he actually been doing? He founded an Academy in Spain for players released by English clubs who failed to secure a deal anywhere else; a laudable enough project even if the returns were unspectacular. Ikechi Anya and Sam Clucas are the only two ‘graduates’ to make any kind of significant impact on professional football since, and link ups with Jerez Industrial and Hyde being unsatisfactory. He had a brief spell coaching at QPR under Harry Redknapp where he was instructed to drill the squad on how best to play 3-5-2. QPR abandoned that formation after three games of the following season. He has performed extensive punditry duties with ITV on England games. It is here that the folly of Hoddle’s great footballing mind is most exposed. Superficially, should you choose to let the words wash over you, he certainly sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. When you analyse what he’s saying, it’s a hotchpotch of rambling, disjointed English with bizarre conclusions – just to pick a recent example, his nomination of Danny Rose as England’s man of the match against Turkey was completely at odds with what most people had seen from a left back who was perpetually out of position and wasteful on the ball. As a ten year entry on a CV, it’s what you might kindly describe as ‘thin’.

Marge-Simpson-Resume
Glenn found the perfect CV template.

Glenn Hoddle is a man with an at best mediocre track record, a history of being fundamentally incapable of dealing with people in a constructive manner, multiple character flaws and coming off the back of doing virtually nothing for an entire decade. This isn’t a case of ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’, it’s a case of the Emperor not even understanding what clothes are in the first place. There have been spectacularly bad England appointments in the past – this would trump the lot.

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