Football: Hoddle unable to stop the rot

Click to follow
Leeds United. .4

Chelsea. . . . 1

IF THE next manager of England was at Elland Road yesterday he was probably not wearing a Chelsea shirt. Glenn Hoddle, the Blues' player-manager, has been installed as the romantics' favourite to assume the mantle, given his declared objective to persuade his teams to play the game in his manner.

The trouble is that the method is not currently working. This was Chelsea's fifth defeat in succession, and the only surprise was that it took Leeds so long to breach a defence quite willing to acquiesce in giving the ball away. A sombre Hoddle said afterwards: 'We let ourselves down. I hope it hurts the players as much as it hurt me.'

Hoddle might have the purists' vote for the England job, but the bookies' favourite is Howard Wilkinson, and purity does not always win in this kind of race. Wilkinson's Leeds side are now unbeaten in nine games and there was never a chance that the run would end. Two chances went begging in the first five minutes. Rod Wallace shot wide with the first and then Kevin Hitchcock spread himself wide to block Gary McAllister's point-blank shot.

Chelsea's fragility was finally and cruelly exposed in a 10- minute salvo early in the second half. Hoddle, for once largely submerged in midfield, could do nothing as his pretty but shallow defence crumbled. Brian Deane held off Frank Sinclair to score his first home goal, as well as providing an impeccable cross from the right after Eddy Newton slipped on the ball five minutes later. Wallace, also short of goals, needed little assistance for his second. In the clear just past halfway, he beat a woeful offside trap and finished clinically.

The fourth was inevitable, David Rocastle showing delicate balance in front of a range of four defenders who had forgotten that their mission in life is to tackle. Chelsea's belated consolation could not disguise their many shortcomings.

While Wilkinson has fashioned a team which allies purpose and steel, Hoddle's is often paper thin. He may be the monarch of all the Glenns but it looks ominously as though he may be having trouble seeing the wood for the trees. An England call-up should be as unlikely for Hoddle the manager as it often was, unfortunately, for Hoddle the player.

Wilkinson offered his younger colleague some avuncular advice in his programme by saying that the first steps in top management were often a leap into the unknown. Put another way, everybody knows that Hoddle has velvet boots, but he may need iron feet inside them with which to give some of his charges an appropriate reminder of their responsibilities.