The curious tale of `Mr Clean', the faith-healer and the divorce case

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The Independent Online
The image of football's Mr Clean has crumbled. Four months ago, Glenn Hoddle was the God-fearing England coach and family man. Today, he is starring in the strange tale of the soccer boss, the faith healer and the mistress. Louise Jury reports.

If anything goes to show that you can never really know some people, Glenn Hoddle is the living proof. For yesterday he was plunged into the middle of a divorce battle.

Millionaire property developer Jeffrey Shean named Hoddle as co-respondent in his divorce petition after the England coach allegedly spent the night with Mr Shean's wife, Vanessa. Hoddle issued absolute denials. But that seemed barely the point. To anyone who has followed the 24-year record of the born-again Christian, the very thought of Hoddle committing adultery would once have been as unthinkable as the Pope bearing twins.

Until last October, when he stunned his colleagues and fans by leaving Anne, his wife of 18 years, and moving into the home of a faith-healer, Hoddle was renowned as squeaky-clean. The devoted father of three children, Zoe, 14, Zara, 11, and Jamie, 5, he would be seen playing with them in the garden of their home in Ascot, Berkshire, and was a regular attender at his local United Reform Church. Shredded Wheat even chose the family as the epitome of bright-smiling goodness for an advertisement.

While Paul Gascoigne and others of his footballing compatriots revelled in drinking and womanising, 40-year-old Hoddle simply knuckled down to the job.

A quiet, distant man - some said cold - he appeared 53 times for England after first being capped in 1979. He led Swindon Town into the Premiership, then, as manager of Chelsea took the club to its first FA Cup final in 24 years.

When, as widely rumoured, he was offered the England job just after Euro 96, Chelsea offered pounds 1.4m to keep him. But, personally recommended to the Football Association by Terry Venables, he accepted the post. And things appeared to be going fine.

The side completed a successful World Cup qualifying campaign with a 0-0 draw against Italy in Rome at the beginning of October. When trouble broke out among the crowds, he appeared at the door of the family home to comment on the police behaviour towards the fans.

Then just days later, the bombshell dropped. In a statement issued through the Football Association, Hoddle said he was leaving his wife, a teacher and his childhood sweetheart.

"The England coach Glenn Hoddle wishes it to be known that, with great sadness, he has separated from his wife, Anne. This is a personal and private matter. It is unconnected to his football responsibilities. Nobody else is involved."

For the first time, it became clear why Mrs Hoddle, also 40, had refused to pose for photographs with her husband after the England-Italy trouble.

Shredded Wheat withdrew their advert as "inappropriate". Neighbours expressed shock, even England team-mates seemed surprised. But nowhere near as surprised as when Hoddle then moved into the home of Eileen Drewery, a 57-year-old grandmother, married to a bricklayer called Phil.

Admittedly, any suggestion of romance was quickly scotched. Hoddle had got to know Mrs Drewery when he had dated her daughter, Michelle, as a teenager. Although that relationship petered out, he had kept in touch with the family, not least because of Mrs Drewery's powers of healing.

For years, any injury Hoddle received has been subjected to the laying on of her hands, and he brought a succession of other injured players to her door in Wokingham, Berkshire.

With the trauma of separation now engulfing him, Mrs Drewery protected Hoddle as if he were a son. "I'm just going to cook his dinner," she said. "He does not want to say anything and when he does it will be through the Football Association. He just wants to do his job and be left alone."

It was not to be. The rumours persisted, and the name of Vanessa Shean came to public attention last month.

The Sheans and Hoddles had met at the Royal Berkshire Racquets and Health Club, and Jeffrey Shean had been delighted with his friendship with a footballer he had so admired. But then his wife was said to have left him. Newspapers claimed that she was seeing Hoddle and yesterday solicitors provided ammunition for the stories.

Margaret Bennett, for Mr Shean, said: "We can confirm that yesterday we issued a divorce petition on the grounds of adultery on behalf of Jeffrey Shean against his wife, Vanessa, and that this petition names Glenn Hoddle as co-respondent."

Hoddle would not comment. Appearing at the door of Mrs Drewery's home in Wokingham, dressed in pink shirt and black trousers, he said that a statement would be issued later. It denied the claims.

At the five-bedroom home she used to share with Mr Clean in Ascot, Mrs Hoddle was asked what she thought. "It's all very sad," she said. Football turned out to be a dirty game after all.