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Leading Article: Hoddle must go - and here's the real reason

GLEN HODDLE should quit as the manager of Englands football team. That is the easy bit. The much harder question is: Would he have to resign if England had won the World Cup and he still let his bizarre religious beliefs show? Some of the "Hoddle Must Go" squad say his beliefs have nothing to do with his qualities as a manager. Their argument is that he is an ambassador for the country and so must be subject to other tests - that he is automatically something of a politician and should therefore conduct himself with discretion. He should not have expressed publicly his view that people with disabilities are being punished for the sins of a previous life. And, having expressed it, he should not have tried to blame the press for reporting his words "out of context". In what context, apart from the prayer-meetings of the Church of Latter Day Football Managers (Christian-Buddhist), could such a belief not be offensive to disabled people? However, on that basis, does the fact that Terry Venables has been disqualified from being the director of a public company also disqualify him from representing England as its public face in world football?

Others in the "Hoddle Must Go" camp, though, argue that Mr Hoddle's beliefs do in fact impinge on his ability as England manager. As the holder of power over his players, he could put undesirable pressure on individuals to go along with his strange ideas. Not all of them would be as robust as the player who agreed to see Mr Hoddle's faith healer, Eileen Drury, and who replied, when she started circling him and asked him what he wanted: "A short back and sides, please." Just as in the case of politicians, it turns out to be a little more difficult than it first appears to draw a clear dividing line between the privacy of home, family and church and the accountability of public office.

But what if, however wacky Mr Hoddle's beliefs seem to the majority, he had turned out to be an inspirational leader whose players found some aspect of Hoddle-Druryism helped calm their nerves when taking penalties? Then he would be feted as the latest in a long line of great English eccentrics, with the dark underside of his beliefs regarded as an unfortunate price worth paying.

Hoddle should go, then, but not primarily because of his tactlessness and dissembling. He should go, ultimately, because he is not a good enough manager and the England team is not - and has not been - playing as well as it could.