Football: Hoddle justifies book as `cathartic exercise'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
AS A display of stubborn resistance it was up there with The Defence of St Etienne. Every attack blocked, every opening closed. If coolness under fire is a criteria, put your money on Glenn Hoddle for the Booker prize.

This would be appropriate too since the award is for fiction and, while Hoddle's diary is presumably largely true, its defence was deeply flawed. The cornerstone was the unanswerable "if you read the book" with enough variations on the theme to bring even the old book-plugging chat-shows into disrepute.

Since the book is not on general sale until tomorrow, and media review copies only arrived yesterday, The Sun's serialisation is all anyone has had to go on. Hoddle insisted that this was a contractual obligation, but he knew when he signed the deal that, for a reputed pounds 250,000, The Sun would not be extracting segments like this from page 103:

"I was always keen on something more summery than a dark suit and eventually got my way with beige. The blue suede shoes just added the finishing touch to the look (though everyone had brown leather shoes as well). I was really pleased with how smart everyone looked. It was the World Cup after all, and we were doing something to distinguish ourselves as a team."

Obviously Gazza smashing lamps sells more papers (and books) and allowing The Sun to put its own inimitable mark on it was asking for controversy. Previous football authors, like Kenny Dalglish, have dictated where their autobiographies have been serialised and so could have Hoddle. He could even have refused any such deal but that would obviously have been less lucrative. Besides, Hoddle insisted that apart from the `Drunk Gazza trashed my room' headline, he had no problem with the serialisation.

Hoddle also justified the diary by saying it was a cathartic exercise which eased the stress of the job and allowed him to order his thoughts. This makes sense. Lots of people write diaries for just that reason. They do not all seek to turn them into best-sellers however.

Hoddle denied he had withheld information so he could use it in his diaries, but he had not previously said Chris Sutton would never again be picked under his management, nor had he gone into detail about Gascoigne's behaviour in La Manga. Instead he denied much of what he now records.

The discrepancy, he said, is because Gascoigne had sold his side of the story but that was more than two months ago. It also smacks of the nursery school defence "he started it". Perhaps the book should be retitled as "The Diary of Glenn Hoddle aged 40 3/4."

Supporters will be relieved to hear that "the mood in the camp is very positive. No one has any problems whatsoever. I asked players to see me if they did and no one has." Coming from the manager who banished Sutton and, in other cases, appears to have vindictively dropp-ed people, this is being either breathtakingly naive or, more likely, disingenuous.

Hoddle would not say if Eileen Drewery, who could have given the team "an extra 20 per cent" in France, will be coming to Sweden for England's first European Championship qualifier next month. Nor, initially, would he discuss whether he was a director of her clinic. When it was pointed out he was listed as such as Companies House, he denied his espousal of her was commercially compromising, and stressed the clinic was applying for charitable status.

Hoddle denied his behaviour had lowered the dignity of the office and, given what has gone before (Bobby Robson's philandering, Graham Taylor's video, Terry Venables' business dealings) that may be true.

However, one of the reasons the Football Association chose Hoddle was because of his pure image. What with his adultery, his obsession with Drewery's mumbo-jumbo and now this miss-and-tell tale, his image is thoroughly tarnished.

That the FA not only collaborated in it, but have also offered him an extended contract - as yet unjustified by his results - is staggering. With judgement like this at the top it is no wonder the clubs want to run the games themselves.

Hoddle faces Grand Jury, page 5