Football: Hoddle reads Gascoigne the riot act

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WHILE Paul Durkin, England's World Cup referee, was putting the national team straight on what they could and could not get away at the forthcoming French finals, away from the lush playing fields of Bisham Abbey yesterday Glenn Hoddle was brandishing what looked distinctly like a yellow card - or in other words a final caution - at his wayward star Paul Gascoigne.

The England coach declared himself "disappointed" and "upset" about the player's nocturnal habits of the past week, which has seen him out nightclubbing with Rob Stewart and enjoying a beer and a kebab in the wee small hours of the morning with his radio and TV pal, Chris Evans.

Irreplaceable or not, Gascoigne was left in no doubt of what fate might befall him should he transgress again. In a thinly veiled threat to the Middlesbrough midfielder, Hoddle said that he had told the player "forcibly" what he thought of it all. "He's disappointed me," he said. "I've told him that, he knows it and he's apologised."

While Gascoigne may have been full of remorse in Hoddle's company he was, though, quite unrepentant when facing the press, during which his loathing of them was all too obvious. "I've never let anybody down when I've put on an England shirt," he said. A fact with which Hoddle concurred. "But what I do outside the game, then that's my problem."

Gascoigne should be grateful he does not play for Saudi Arabia, whom England face on Saturday in their last home game before the finals. Saeed Al-Owairan, the Saudi equivalent of Gazza in both talent and temperament, was once similarly caught with a drink in his hand - only for him it resulted in a 14-month suspension rather than a mere admonishment.

Hard as it may be to envisage Hoddle as a disciplinarian in the Alex Ferguson mould, or even Terry Venables come to that, he has evidently read the riot act to the player who still represents England's best chance of coming home from France bathed in glory. Even Gascoigne, who clearly did not thank the England hierarchy for making him face the press, admitted that Hoddle was "angry" about his latest extra-curricular activities, which predictably received massive exposure in the popular press.

It sometimes seems as if Hoddle spends most of his working life defending England's prize midfielder. He has certainly had to do it to a greater extent then any other England manager. He made the point that he could only control Gascoigne, or any player, while he was "under my wing", though he was quick not to attach any blame to his club manager, Bryan Robson.

"No England manager can control the players," Hoddle said. "Now he's under my wing, hopefully for the next seven weeks. I've had a long chat with Paul and he understands where I'm coming from. I've been disappointed with what I've seen and it's up to him to meet me halfway."

By that, Hoddle clearly meant the Middlesbrough player's lifestyle must change. When asked how fit the player was, Hoddle replied, somewhat despairingly: "He's still 40 per cent away from full match fitness, but we will put him on a special diet and I am confident he will eventually be fitter than he has been in years.

"The problem is that Paul has had four excellent performances for us but he hasn't played since Rome. In between internationals, he doesn't realise the injuries come if you don't keep your body in check."

Hoddle was not prepared to excuse him on the grounds of pressure because of who he was any more then he would several other high-profile players - he cited David Beckham and Steve McManaman as two other players who were constantly in the spotlight.

Bobby Robson, the former England manager, has condemned the company that Gascoigne keeps, and Hoddle stopped only just short of doing the same. He took relief from the fact, though, that they would not be around to lead him astray in France - "unless we get Rod in for a little concert in the hotel," he joked.

The dangerous time for Hoddle is the five days following England's training camp at La Manga in Spain, when the players will be allowed to return to their friends and families before setting off for France. Gascoigne and the other players will be reminded that they are still on England duty.

"He doesn't have to go to a night-club or a pub. He can do something else," Hoddle said. "If not, I'll take him home with me - and then I can go out for a good time."