England move for Hoddle looks imminent

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Speculation mounted last night that Glenn Hoddle, the manager of Chelsea, would be offered the job of England coach before the weekend.

He has been the favourite for weeks and, as football's grapevine hummed with the rumour that he would be appointed within 48 hours, the Football Association would only rule out an announcement today.

David Davies, the FA's Director of Public Affairs, said: "This is more speculation, of which we have had plenty." Pushed on whether an appointment was imminent he would only add: "I cannot say any more than that."

As recently as Sunday no decision had been made by the FA's kingmakers - Sir Bert Millichip, Graham Kelly, Noel White, Chris Wilcox and Keith Wiseman. It would appear their hand has been forced by the diminishing list of candidates.

Last week the original favourite, Bryan Robson, seemed to rule himself out by signing a long-term contract with Middlesbrough. There has since been rare harmony at Stamford Bridge where Hoddle had delayed signing a new contract until Ken Bates and Matthew Harding settled their differences. His current deal ends in summer.

It is thought Hoddle has already been approached and is thinking the offer over while the FA discuss his situation with Bates, the Chelsea chairman and an FA Council member.

Yesterday Jimmy Armfield, who has been advising the FA on the succession, travelled from his home in the North-West to the FA's west London headquarters.

Hoddle, unlike Robson, Gerry Francis and Kevin Keegan, never dismissed the prospect of taking over from Terry Venables. The 38-year-old is widely thought to be interested in the international challenge of the job.

As a gifted midfield player he won 53 England caps and had a very successful spell in France with Monaco. As a manager he has introduced Continental ideas, first at Swindon, where he used a sweeper in taking the Wiltshire club to the Premiership, and then at Chelsea. He reached the FA Cup final in his first season in west London and clearly enjoyed masterminding last year's run to the semi-finals of the European Cup-Winners' Cup. This year Chelsea reached the FA Cup semi-finals but they became better known for the signing of Ruud Gullit - a deal which underlined the respect in which Hoddle is held, at home and abroad.

One reservation the FA have had concerned his perceived desire to dispense with Robson who has been assisting Venables, but that is countered by the possibility that Gullit could be persuaded to work with Hoddle. There are also worries over Hoddle's ability to handle the inevitable pressures that go with the England job. Hoddle, while polite, has never had a warm relationship with the media.

However, he is strong-willed, undeterred by criticism, and financially independent. In recent years he has found strength from a deep belief in God. The more irreverent will suggest that, should he be offered the job, and take it, he will need all the help he can get.