Football: Hoddle puts profit before honour

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IN FUTURE conversations with Glenn Hoddle, members of England's football squad may think it wise not to go beyond the equivalent of name, rank and number.

What else are they to think now that Hoddle has gone public with the unpleasant details of Paul Gascoigne's response to being left out of the recent World Cup finals?

Money has got be the reason, a primary reason anyway, why Hoddle waited two months to reveal all in a book worked on with the Football Association's director of public affairs, David Davies, and sold for serialisation to The Sun newspaper - although Hoddle's agent, Dennis Roach, insisted last night that Hoddle felt it "absolutely necessary" to give his side following Gascoigne's description of events at the time.

There was a time when the FA would not have countenanced a book - other than of a purely technical nature - by the England manager/coach and a rule existed to prevent players from commenting on matches for which they were chosen.

Maybe things are worse than they used to be, and maybe not. But in approving Hoddle's imprudence the FA has added greatly to the impression that no aspect of English football has gone into sharper decline than the integrity of its administration.

Whenever something comes up that seems to embarrass the FA, it has become its habit, and a successful one, to look the other way and point with pride to another subject, to some other policy that is doing very well. This time, however, there is no escape route. Quite simply, the FA should not have allowed the publication of a book that calls Hoddle's judgement and probity into question.

A golden rule of football management is, or certainly was, that in matters of discipline and negotiation, conversations with players are best kept private. In breaking this rule, Hoddle, a man who professes to speak openly about his innermost feelings and suggests it as a remedy for others, deserves all the calumny he is likely to get.

A personal point of view, one nobody is obliged to share, is that the idea of holding back information, which would have been better aired by Hoddle at the time of Gascoigne's rejection, is quite reprehensible. It is sure to bring up in the minds of many people the questions of whether Hoddle will ever again be completely trusted by his players and is fully suited for international responsibility.

Let's admit that the problem of limiting commercial exploitation in football has become maddeningly complex, and difficult to simplify. In Hoddle's case it was one of self-discipline, that of putting national esteem before profit. Graham Taylor's naive willingness to take part in a television documentary based on England's unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals served to make him further a subject of public ridicule.

Chances are many football supporters merely glanced at the headlines about Hoddle, asked themselves what was so unusual about that, and went on to read about preparations for the new season. This merely indicates loose thinking.

The objections to Hoddle's book are unanswerable. In the first place, if memory can be relied upon, no England manager has published details of team and administrative affairs while in office. Even in retirement Alf Ramsey refused to throw light on the conspiracy behind his downfall.

In the second place, Hoddle has unquestionably betrayed confidences, making it difficult for him to impose a code of prohibition with regard to speaking ill of one another. It is a step away from candour to hypocrisy. Gascoigne's indiscipline and incessantly childish behaviour was tolerated by Hoddle in the hope that England's most naturally gifted footballer would come to his senses in time for the World Cup finals. It was less a feeling for his fellow man than pragmatism.

By all accounts, Hoddle was evasive when questions about Gascoigne's rejection were put to him at England's training camp in La Manga. Speaking on radio, Hoddle's assistant and friend, John Gorman, emphasised that it was entirely between the coach and the player.

If, as it appears to be, that Hoddle has, for a price, betrayed Gascoigne, then it requires an eloquent advocate indeed to make a convincing defence for him. From here, no defence at all is discernible.

Leading article, Review, page 3