Football: Elton John accuses Hoddle

SIR ELTON JOHN yesterday launched an astonishing attack on Glenn Hoddle, accusing him of "resenting" David Beckham's fame, ability and relationship with Victoria Adams, Beckham's pop-singer girlfriend.

The Watford chairman also revealed he had been in touch with Paul Gascoigne and was helping the Middlesbrough midfielder in his fight against alcoholism, an addiction the millionaire rock star has suffered from himself.

The 52-year-old made his remarks in a rare interview to mark his return to active service at Watford, after two hectic years personally and professionally had limited his involvement. Speaking at the First Division's club's Vicarage Road ground, he also said he felt the Premiership had "spiralled out of control" with "mediocre players being transferred for pounds 2-3m".

Many would agree with that, but his remarks about Beckham are sure to cause controversy. "I felt for Becks at the World Cup," he said. "He was very shabbily treated by the England manager. I think it is resentment on Glenn Hoddle's part. Maybe he wasn't as successful as David, he had a great career but he didn't have a great England career. I think he resents that and he resents that he has a nice girlfriend and is famous." On a more conciliatory note he added: "I think a couple of the things Glenn Hoddle said are right, David does have to learn discipline on the pitch."

Beckham and Adams, who is better known as "Posh Spice", stayed at Sir Elton's house in the south of France after the World Cup and, he added, "love each other very much. I keep a close eye on David. I think he is one of the most talented players England has produced. I think he will eventually go abroad and cope with it. He has seen what his girlfriend has had to cope with and she does so very well. The Spice Girls work their balls off - if you'll pardon the expression.

"I do like to help anyone with special talent and if there is anyway I can help them cope with the pressures I try and ring up and offer."

Thus the call to Gascoigne. "I spoke to Paul [Gascoigne] on the phone a couple of weeks ago at Middlesbrough to see if he wanted any help and to say if he did I would be there for him. It is a very hard thing to do to give up that addictive lifestyle. You need friends, people with a bit of experience, to help you.

"I wrote him a letter when he was in treatment saying: `We are the same kind of person, self-destructive in lots of ways. I wasted a lot of my time doing blah blah blah. You are a genius, you have such skill, this is a great opportunity to prove to everybody, including the England manager, that you are a great footballer.'

"I said: `You are going to have to knuckle down and do some hard work and do as you are told. I can promise if you do the results will come.' I am very proud of Paul for what he is doing at the moment - just as I am proud of Tony Adams and Paul Merson."

Sir Elton also said he felt Hoddle "shot himself in the foot" during the World Cup "with all that nonsense about Michael Owen. International football is dire and boring," he added. "I don't see any point in it. Everyone is so negative. I thought England played well in the World Cup, they were one of the most inventive teams, but I thought the overall competition was appalling and France the most boring team ever to win it."

Sir Elton added: "Hoddle would not be my choice as England manager but there is no one else. Only Terry Venables seems to revel in it. I wouldn't want it, it is a thankless task being England manager and working for that lot [the FA]. I remember when I first became chairman [in the late- 70s] and went to Football League meetings I thought: `I must have so much to learn'. Then I got there and thought: `My God, these people are running football'?"

He did not feel it had got any better. "The Premier League has spiralled out of control. We see very mediocre players going for pounds 2-3m. I see figures bandied around like pounds 18m for Alan Shearer, a player who still hasn't found his form after coming back from injury. It's a joke. I'm not having a go at Shearer but if people want to pay that they have more money than sense. And when you see some players on the pitch you think: `For Chrissakes, you are earning so much money and you are strolling around'. They can't pass a ball, can't tackle and get sent off on a regular basis. It's money for old rope."

Sir Elton also said he was "very uncomfortable with television's hold on the game" and regarded the Manchester United-Sky TV deal as "extremely unhealthy". He said: "It's all very well for the fat cats on the board who are going to line their pockets, but why would United supporters want Rupert Murdoch to run their team?"

It was a bravura performance of the sort that often leads to a disrepute charge. Sir Elton had a word about that as well.

"This `bringing the game into disrepute' for saying things - I always laugh about that. People should be free to say what they like. And how much were they going to give to the Welsh FA? I thought the intention of setting up the Premier League was to create the finest league in Europe but you see from the results in Europe it isn't. I don't even think it is in the top three."

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