Almost as soon as Glenn Hoddle arrived in the Tottenham Hotspur first team he began to play football with a beauty that many in England had never seen before, at least not from an Englishman. Nor did Hoddle let us down once his collection of caps ended at 53: a figure that led Michel Platini to observe that it might have been doubled in a less philistine country. When Hoddle took over from Terry Venables as England manager after Euro 96, those describing him as "the perfect man for the job" included Harry Redknapp.
England played some marvellous football under Hoddle, often in the 3-5-2 formation he employed in order to flood the midfield – it was a key lesson taken from his career as an international, when the amount of running he had to do left him "physically and mentally shattered" – and the ensuing aid to creativity led to memorable performances, one that brought a 2-0 victory in Poland in 1997 being rated by many as at least equal to the 4-1 triumph over the Netherlands under Venables the previous year. His sacking, after a supposed "friendly interview", was, according to Hoddle, whose insistence has never wavered in more than 13 years, profoundly unfair. He was sacrificed on the altar of an increasingly crass popular culture from which formerly broadsheet organs of journalism no longer even tried to distance themselves.
Today he is only 54, wiser and free, apart from his interests in the Glenn Hoddle Academy, a project based in Spain that has earned professional contracts for mainly British footballers, and 20-20 Football, a tournament for ex-star players. Asked if he had unfinished business with the FA, he confessed: "If I were to die tomorrow, my life would be incomplete." Could he manage England again? "Would I get that opportunity? Probably not. But I think we have a batch of players capable of going to the Euros and doing well. I find it a very interesting moment. Because Stuart Pearce, Harry Redknapp, Roy Hodgson, myself – anyone – who went to the tournament with the status of a caretaker would have the pressure off him and the players would be liberated too, not least those who have been on the fringes and are accustomed to thinking that the manager doesn't fancy them. Micah Richards, say – I'm not saying he should be in the team or not but he's certainly one who, after maybe not convincing Fabio Capello, could benefit from a fresh start.
"Look how a caretaker has worked for the England rugby team in the Six Nations – they've done fantastically. Everyone's got an edge. No one's sure of a place and everyone has an incentive. So I'd back the FA if they decided not to go for a full-time manager yet. If Harry goes and does well, fine.
"Knowing the score as I do – having experienced tournament pressure as a player and a manager – I believe, strangely enough, that the situation we are in presents a real opportunity for an England manager. If it goes wrong, as in South Africa, people will say, 'What did you expect?' And, if it works, it could be perfect for us to click. And those players will have to click this time, because the next World Cup is in Brazil and history shows we're unlikely to win in South America. Yes, we have to qualify, but if you look at the crop of young players – Hart, Jones, Smalling, Sturridge, Wilshere, Welbeck, Cleverley – most won't be at their peaks until we're back in Europe, in France in 2016. Meanwhile, we can have a real go at these Euros."
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