In celebration of Glenn Hoddle: the feet and mind of a sensation

In celebration of Glenn Hoddle: the feet and mind of a sensation

Statement: Glenn Hoddle is a footballing genius. I think he’s up there with the very best English managers in, or out as the case may be, of the game today. Sure he’s a strange man, but isn’t José Mourinho a bit odd? Isn’t Zdeněk Zeman quirky? What about Rafa Benítez? He’s a great coach but certainly divides opinion.

Similarly, he’s made his errors, spoken out of turn and paid the price. His interview with Matt Dickinson for The Times newspaper in January 1999 changed the course of Hoddle’s managerial career forever: “My beliefs have evolved in the last eight or nine years, that the spirit has to come back again, that is nothing new, that has been around for thousands of years. You have to come back to learn and face some of the things you have done, good and bad. There are too many injustices around.

“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. You have to look at things that happened in your life and ask why. It comes around.”

Let’s make one thing clear: it’s an utterly ridiculous, inconsiderate statement. It makes little sense and cost Hoddle the chance to build something genuinely successful with the England team. It alienated him from a society that had belatedly his football ability and long-since clamoured for his appointment as England boss. It frustrated footballers, made headline news across the football world and resulted in the London-born manager being cast aside.

Most tellingly for Hoddle was the impact it would also have post-England. After achieving Premier League safety with Southampton, he unceremoniously left for boyhood club Tottenham in April 2001. The fallout was bitter; he was accused of telling lies, mismanagement of the players and a reclusive personality. Was any of it true? Perhaps he told the odd lie to join Spurs but a reclusive manager wouldn’t have got as much out of the players as he achieved. The players seemed to genuinely enjoy playing for the former midfielder.

It stuck, though, and much was made of his poor man-management skills. One misguided, controversial interview and a perceived lack of loyalty was enough for people to finalise their judgement on Hoddle. To most, he was now a talented football mind with little consideration for others and a notable inability to get the most out of his players. Even today, that notion is widely accepted.

His time in north London as a manager was in stark contrast to his days gracing White Hart Lane as a true attacking force. Ossie Ardiles, World Cup winner in 1978 and the recipient of 63 Argentina caps said of Hoddle: “He was like Maradona without pace. No, no. Glenn was God.”

While he took the club to the 2002 League Cup final, a shock 2-1 defeat to Blackburn raised eyebrows and the subsequent aftershock resulted in poor form, culminating in a ninth-place finish. Many fans and journalists argued that Hoddle had underachieved and that the impressive early season form warranted a better outcome. Few, however, accepted that the finish was better than the 11th place the club had achieved a year earlier.

The reverberating effects of 2001-02 season were quickly forgotten as Hoddle began 2002-03 with the manager of the month award for August. Their fine form saw them top the league. However, it wasn’t to last and a 10th place finish was genuinely disappointing. Again his man-management skills were questioned. Few argued that it was inexperience at club level in the top end of the league that hampered his ability to retain the club’s position. Fewer still spoke of Tottenham’s injuries and threadbare squad post-January.

In September 2003, Hoddle was sacked. A two-year spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers followed, however differences with the board resulted in the manager stepping down after two seasons.

Post professional football, Hoddle had been running a successful academy in Spain, the Glenn Hoddle Academy. The main objective of the academy was to get former Premier League and Football League scholars back into the professional game. Hoddle incepted the idea of a football academy some time before it actually opened. He had the idea for his academy while managing in the early 1990s. In an interview in May 2008, Hoddle claimed: “I’ve had it in mind ever since my first job as a manager at Swindon.”

The academy insisted this was not just another case of a famous football celebrity lending his name to a random, money-making scheme. They claim that the original concept was Hoddle’s and that he was committed to turning his vision into reality.

Watford star Ikechi Anya is a product of the training program that Hoddle personally wrote and there were others who secured deals in England and Spain.

Hoddle has since stated that he has received approximately 25 managerial offers but that none match his ambitions and that his ultimate aim is to continue in the media until the right offer comes along. That said, it’s hard to see Hoddle turning down a Premier League job if it was to arise. His frequent appearances on English television have put him back in the public eye. Is he short on cash or is there something else to it? It’s hard to tell, however one thing is certain: he’d do a better job than many of the Premier League and Championship managers currently in employment.

Hoddle has always had a finely tuned football brain. Most of his 377 appearances for Spurs between 1975 and 1987 boasted elements of genius. His 53 England caps don’t do justice to a player who many regard as one of England’s finest.

Perhaps it’s just the way things have panned out for this legend, but even his England managerial record is frequently knocked. Lest we forget that it was in the middle of deep transition that Hoddle took over from Terry Venables. He omitted Paul Gascoigne from the 1998 World Cup squad – a harsh decision but one that in reflection was necessary – as England were cruelly knocked out by old foes Argentina on penalties. While the Euro 2000 qualification process started off inconsistently, by the time England sacked Hoddle he had achieved a 60 percent win percentage. Only two managers, Sir Alf Ramsey and Fabio Capello, can lay claim to a better record.

In the case of Glenn Hoddle, it appears the facts of his managerial career are all-too-often lost on those who demean and undermine his ability as a leader. Sure he’s had his problems along the way, but hasn’t everyone? I implore you to spend time listening to Hoddle the pundit and read his book, My 1998 World Cup Story. He’s clear in his views, supremely knowledgeable about the modern game and tactically astute. He’s every bit as switched on as when he graced the First Division all those years ago.

Hoddle has indeed apologised for his remarks. In the immediate aftermath of his England sacking, he stated: “I accept I made a serious error of judgement in an interview which caused misunderstanding and pain to a number of people. This was never my intention and for this I apologise. My sincere thanks for the support goes to loved ones, family, friends and media colleagues who have worked with me over the past few days to try and establish the truth.”

It’s highly unlikely that the former Chelsea and England boss will ever be given a chance to grace Premier League touchlines again. His reputation precedes him. However, like many others who have been cast aside after an untimely error, in Glenn Hoddle, English football has the mind and experience of a man who can lay claim to being one of our greatest playing and coaching talents for a generation.

By Omar Saleem. Follow @omar_saleem

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