Football: Adams' perfect role in defence

Book debate: England coach and latest player to turn author show united front over `out-of-context' revelations
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The Independent Online
IT COULD have made a great episode of Jerry Springer. First we could have had Glenn Hoddle talking about how his key defender had betrayed him with the serialised revelations of his book. Then Tony Adams could have been brought in to defend himself by picking up on a few betrayals in the England coach's own book. Then Alan Shearer, whose job as England captain Adams thinks he should have had, could have been added to the pot.

The grand finale, the precursor to the customary fight scene, would have been the introduction of Paul Gascoigne, implicated as an alcoholic in both books and described as a batterer of furniture as well as wives in Hoddle's.

Sadly for the media, who would have played the part of provocative audience with glee, the host for the Football Association's latest confessional was not Springer but David Davies. The FA's spin-doctor, a recent co-author himself, had a less confrontational affair in mind. Thus he, Hoddle and Adams sat cosily side-by-side under the timber beams of the Home Counties' chic of Burnham's Bridge Club. Shearer was held back for a later audience and Gazza was miles away.

Though they had never previously given such a press conference, Adams and Hoddle were together, we were assured, to talk about Saturday's European Championship qualifier with Sweden in Stockholm, not to present a united front in the wake of Monday's Sun headline "Adams: Hoddle got it wrong".

They then barely mentioned the game while pledging their undying devotion to each other. Well, not quite, but both said their "relationship is closer than it has ever been" and the two books had brought them together. Those late nights discussing the legitimacy of the split infinitive and when to use a delayed intro had obviously been fruitful.

To be fair the agenda (books not Swedes) was set by the media but that was inevitable. While it was laudable of the FA to confront the issue head-on, it was disingenuous to suggest Adams' appearance was not related to his book. So were the twin defences that Adams did not want to talk about his book, despite serialising it in the nation's biggest selling paper, until the official launch on Monday; and that the serialisation was concentrating on the negative aspects and the book should instead be read in context.

Since preview copies of Addicted are unavailable until tomorrow there is little chance of that and it is naive to sell serialisation rights and not expect them to both dwell on the controversial aspects and, if not specifically blocked from doing so, print them at the most newsworthy time - such as the build-up to a big game.

Taken in context, Hoddle and the World Cup each play small parts in the book, a lengthy and deeply personal account of Adams' fight with alcoholism.

"The book is about my disease," he said. "Two years ago I was dead, I wasn't going to play football ever again, never mind be here with England. It was serialised in the Sun because when I drank down the pub that was on the counter with the pint of lager. It gets the most readers and if people see my book and I sober one person up I've won."

An admirable aim but unless part of the serialisation fee is passed on to Alcohol Concern, or a similar body, there are bound to be those who believe the size of the Sun's pockets was as much a factor as the size of its readership. Not all alcoholics are Sun readers. Hoddle may say, as he did yesterday, that serialisation contracts are between publisher and paper but it is ludicrous to suggest it affects neither the author's advance nor eventual earnings.

While Adams said he did not know what his team-mates thought of the book and that it was irrelevant one international he may hope reads it is Gascoigne. He would not discuss his description of Gascoigne as "an ill man" in a passage dealing with "the illness of addiction" and drinking but said: "It's up to Paul to be honest with you whether he has an alcohol problem, I have merely given my opinion. I haven't been in touch with him but any time he wants to speak to me I'm here."

Alan Shearer was "a fabulous player, it is just my personal opinion [I should be captain]. I feel have a lot to offer as captain."

And Hoddle who, he said in the book, humiliated David Beckham and treated the England players like kids? "It is a balanced opinion of Glenn. I have total respect for him, I think he is a great guy. As far as I am concerned I am trying to help, it was never my intention to hurt him. I want a healthy relationship, he is still using me in his side."

Adams admitted there was an "element of fear that I might hurt my England career" but Hoddle said that was never a danger. The England coach would not make a rebuttal of the criticisms, but said: "There is not a problem between Tony and myself, there never has been and I can't see a problem in the future.

"Tony's entitled to his opinion and he has said a lot of positive things but nobody wants to report that. It's not affected the players. We've had good training sessions, the mood is the same as it has always been before a big game."

England fly out to Sweden, without the injured Rio Ferdinand, this morning. Adams said he was "completely focused" and ready "to give my all for England as always." He was "serene". Some of the reporting was "disturbing and out of context" but that was "OK. I've a good purpose."

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