Leading article: After Hoddle, why not Wenger?

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The Independent Culture
THE FIRST reaction to the sight of the popular press in full cry against the stumbling figure of England's football coach, Glenn Hoddle, is to declare: let him stay.

It's not all his fault, after all, if a team of 11 players whom most people would pick as the best men available can't do the business against a less-than-awesome team in Bulgaria.

Like it or not - and the English are understandably reluctant to accept the fact - England is not in the top rank of world football at the moment. Blame it on the English league system, poor training or wrong tactics. But it cannot all be blamed on the coach.

It's a peculiarly English - or rather, a tabloid newspaper - thing to demand that the pilot be thrown overboard every time the ship hits rough waters. Given a clear victory against Luxembourg on Wednesday, those headlines screaming for Hoddle to go will turn to praise him. But it is also a peculiarly English thing to avoid making individuals responsible for poor performance, whether in companies, in governments or, indeed, on the sports field.

By any standards, Glen Hoddle's behaviour - his "sack and tell all" memoirs, his rows with the press and his refusal to sign an extension to his contract - have hardly been conducive to good team performance.

If England does fail to beat Luxembourg, and beat them decisively, then Hoddle should go, preferably on his own volition. A new manager would then have six months to settle in before the next game.

That poses the question, of course, as to who would or should take on the most abused position in Britain. But how about breaking the mould and appointing a foreigner? It would be unusual. But it would face the team with a different culture and a new challenge, and it might get over the problems of style that have so bedevilled the English national team. Arsene Wenger of Arsenal would fit the bill nicely.

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