The Hoddle Sacking: Loyalty to squad's faith healer carried high price

SHE IS the fulcrum on which the whole saga of Hoddle's dismissal rests: Hoddle's "other" woman, the faith healer Eileen Drewery.

Hoddle's loyalty to this Svengali character has been unshakeable ever since she nursed him through injury while he was a young player at Tottenham. But that loyalty, which culminated in a job for Drewery as healer to the England squad for the World Cup, has now cost him his job.

Fleet Street's sports writers have never really felt comfortable with Hoddle's commitment to touchy-feely spiritualism. His devotion to God, love and other "unmanly" elements such as forgiveness did not really sit well with 3pm kick-off, the onion bag or the square ball. And all this, surmised the pack, could be attributed not to Hoddle but his close friend and confidante Eileen Drewery.

Despite repeated attempts on the back pages to remove her from the England camp, she became even more closely entwined, even advising the players themselves. Hoddle's only regret, he said, about France 98 was not poor team selection or tactics but failing to include Drewery in his squad a fortnight earlier.

Last night Mrs Drewery leapt to his defence and condemned the sacking as a media witch-hunt.

She said: "They have done this not just to Glenn, they have done it to other England managers. As far as I'm concerned we don't deserve him, we have never treated him right in this country. He has been given a very raw deal.

"He has never been given the right kind of help from the papers, and the public, unfortunately, are very gullible and they are inclined to believe what the papers say."

Mrs Drewery also denied that her influence had had a negative effect on Hoddle's tenure in charge of the England team. She said: "I am a healer, that's what I do, I help people. I do not have a negative effect on anyone."

Asked how Hoddle would take this blow to his career she said: "He's a very strong young man, he won't need counselling from me, he's fine.

"He's a very strong man and he's full of faith."

She rounded on the Sports minister, Tony Banks, for his criticism of Hoddle's beliefs in the wake of the Times interview. "I find it totally offensive that he (Banks) thinks believing in reincarnation is totally ridiculous," she said.

Last night Mrs Drewery, who is nursing her husband, Philip, through bowel cancer, saw her own home in Easthampstead Park, Berkshire, become the focus of press attention.

She is no stranger to media speculation since her involvement with Hoddle has thrust her beliefs into the spotlight. She became a faith healer after being convinced that a pain she was suffering in the neck was a message from God.

She developed her faith healing philosophy after nursing her mother, who died from cancer. Prayer helped to focus her inner world and she believed it could be used to cure physical aliments. She said prayer saved her from a burst septic ovary and claimed to have cured a friend's arthritis.

Her first contact with Hoddle was in 1976 while he was going out with her daughter, Michelle. He was then aged 17. But it was not until Hoddle complained of a hamstring injury that she revealed her powers. She practised what she terms "remote healing" and Hoddle was cured.

The partnership would never look back.

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