Football: Hoddle frustrated by clubs' change of heart

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The Independent Online
Glenn Hoddle, fresh from his side's 2-0 win in Georgia, is frustrated at having his World Cup preparations sabotaged by Premiership clubs, who have stymied his plans for an England get-together before Christmas.

The England coach had planned a three-day training session after England's top clubs had announced they were postponing the programme on 14 December because of international commitments for so many from the Premiership's league of nations.

But now some clubs have reversed that decision, notably Wimbledon v Blackburn, Leeds v Tottenham and Liverpool v Middlesbrough. England's next game is against the Group Two co-favourites Italy at Wembley on 12 February, followed by the arrival of Georgia on 30 April and a spring trip to Poland on 31 May.

Unless the Football Association are successful in their bid to squeeze in a friendly in late March, it will not be until England go to France for the World Cup dress rehearsal tournament also involving Brazil and Italy that Hoddle will have an opportunity to try things free of pressure. "I can't see a window for any friendly fixtures or get-togethers, but I would love to have the opportunity to experiment," Hoddle said. "I've got a few ideas I would like to put in there in a B-match or even an under- 21 game if you could still use a couple of over-age players, but you can't do it."

Another blow for England is their forced withdrawal from the under-21 tournament in Toulon next summer. They are concentrating instead on the Malaysian under-19 tournament, for which they have qualified.

However, Hoddle is happy to trade these frustrations for the cushion of nine points from his first three games, which puts him two ahead of schedule. Looking back, he owes a lot to the former coach Terry Venables, who helped formulate the programme at the fixtures summit in Warsaw last January. Having got the best of the autumn weather in Moldova and Georgia, and having taken Poland while fresh, England now have two home games to consolidate their position.