According to an England smokesman...

THERE was one day last week when the sending-arms-to-Sierra-Leone controversy drew only marginally more flak than Glenn Hoddle's public avowal that he would take Paul Gascoigne to the World Cup despite the revelation that he puffs his way through 20 cigarettes a day.

One smoker out of a full packet of players doesn't seem to be an outrageous ratio but it drew upon Hoddle a vast explosion of indignation. Much of the hot air came from the ranks of professional gaspers who have taken upon themselves the task of overseeing the moral tone of our sporting life but there was also a general expression of disapproval that was more worrying.

The fact that it was Gascoigne who was involved would not have helped. He has exhausted the reservoirs of patience of most of his admirers and Hoddle is prominent among those who doggedly retain the faith.

This is not a shock. Hoddle has had his own problems but he is a Christian man. He is also a professional who has been burdened with the enormous task of taking England as close to the World Cup as possible. Solely on his proximity to that throne at the beginning of July will he be judged - not on how many nice, clean-living fellas are contained in his team. Gascoigne is one of the few Englishmen who can demonstrate the class required to influence football at the uppermost level and Hoddle is absolutely correct to persevere with him.

The player may yet find it impossible to reach the necessary fitness level, but if his physical condition is adequate when the time comes to name the final squad, he must be included, nicotine stains notwithstanding.

It was in a splendid assessment of the present Gascoigne situation on this very page by my colleague Ian Ridley a month ago that his fondness for a fag was first revealed. Talk of a continuing thirst for a drink was also mentioned but it was the cigarette addiction about which Hoddle was questioned at last week's announcement of the England World Cup training squad. Hoddle is a member of the Arsene Wenger school of fitness and dietary perfection but as far as he was concerned he'd been aware for several years that Gazza smoked and didn't feel it was a serious problem at this stage. After all, he pointed out, Ossie Ardiles was on 40 a day when he won the World Cup with Argentina.

Attitudes have altered considerably since then and it is very difficult to offer any support to those who smoke. I gave up a long time ago and have the convert's zeal about me when I pursue a constant tirade against those friends and relatives who persist in the habit. The fact that they ignore me doesn't lessen my regard for them.

While I might agree that smoking should be actively discouraged and banned from as many public places as possible, to suggest that smoking should be a reason to prevent someone doing their job, any job, is to take the crusade in a dangerous direction.

Smokers claim there are 15 million of them in Britain so Gascoigne will be representing a large constituency and should he prove to be a hero he will, no doubt, offer them some justification. If he's carried off with a coughing fit, however, they might be a little uncomfortable.

Either way, I reject the idea that it is an essential part of his existence in the public eye to set an example. It would be desirable if all public figures bombarded us with nothing else but virtues but few of them do in any walk of fame. Why should sport bear the brunt of that responsibility?

This supposed duty of sportsmen to set standards is not new. Seven or eight years ago, when the England and Arsenal centre-half Tony Adams was imprisoned for two months for a drink-driving offence, the then Sports Minister, Robert Atkins, called for sportsmen who misbehave on or off the field to be denied selection for their national team.

Adams committed an offence a little more serious than smoking but, even then, the suggestion was monstrous, especially coming from a politician. To demand a demonstration from sport of high standards conspicuously unavailable from many of those elected to rule us betrays an arrogance yet to disappear from their ranks.

Thanks to being able to continue with his career, Adams lived down the disgrace and cured his drinking problem. He has just captained Arsenal to a brilliant championship and Cup double and will be the reliable bulwark at the heart of England's defence in France next month.

In his public rehabilitation, I fancy that Adams has sent out more positive signals about the contribution sport can make to life than would have been possible if he had been banished as that long-forgotten minister demanded. The very fact that he felt that such a suggestion was within his remit is still astounding. Can you imagine the Arts Minister demanding the sacking of a violinist for something that happened off the podium? Do we threaten the livelihoods of pop singers and soap stars - whose actions are far more gross and far more likely to impress young people - because of their private behaviour?

We may not get from Gazza the joys of a repenting sinner but Hoddle is entitled to give him the chance. Brilliance is often delivered in unpleasant packages. Sport is better than most at handling them.

ENGLAND's World Cup squad are to be dressed up in pounds 600 suits designed by Paul Smith for their official off-field activities. However, the final fittings have yet to take place because, according to the publicity blurb, players can change shape during their training programme and can only be certain of their final sizes just before the tournament. It all sounds very odd and if there's any sudden alterations in their inside-leg measurements we ought to be told.

England will not be the only participants reaching for the sartorial heights during the World Cup. Top designers have been flitting around the finalists like butterflies. Star among these is Yves Saint Laurent, who is dressing 3,500, including Fifa officials and referees.

But the veteran French designer is not using football to promote his clothes in Britain for fear of being tainted by any hooliganism outbreaks. The official face of YSL in this country is to be Frankie Dettori. A surprising choice when you consider that YSL don't do jockey shorts.

TEARS are scarcely dry on the cheeks of Manchester United supporters but already their thoughts are turning to next year's Premiership hopes. One optimistic fan called in at a Tote betting shop in Birmingham last week and placed pounds 15,000 at odds of 2-1 against United winning the title next season.

They're hardly generous odds considering Arsenal's sudden ascendancy and the year he'll have to wait for the result. Worse still, the punter had to pay tax of pounds 1,350 on the bet. Had he gone to a race meeting and placed the bet with the Tote representative at the trackside, he would have saved that money because bets laid on the course are tax-free.

Still, anyone daft enough to make such a bet wouldn't be clever enough to realise that.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments