Football: Hoddle's enigma variation

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The Independent Online
The England coach Glenn Hoddle is pondering a modification of formation and approach that could see Matthew Le Tissier recalled to the starting line-up for Wednesday's World Cup qualifying match against Poland at Wembley.

Hoddle played his preferred hand of three in central defence, with wing- backs outside, in the 3-0 win over Moldova last month but at home, and against a team likely to be more proficient defensively this time, he may well seek to accommodate a more inventive attacking player.

"I have said that I wanted to play a similar way to my teams at Swindon and Chelsea but I am not foolish enough to believe that I don't need to change things at this level at times," Hoddle said. "There are certain patterns, certain balances we will keep whatever the shape is. I won't be asking lads to boot balls into the channels, chase things and press. But I might need to make adjustments."

It could point to Hoddle almost adopting his predecessor Terry Venables's "Christmas tree" formation of 4-3-2-1, adapting to the circumstances of the match and the challenge of the opposition. Andy Hinchcliffe may find himself lining up as a left-back, then moving forward when the opportunity arises to augment midfield, leaving the three at the back to man the defences.

Such an option would enable Hoddle to dispense with a defender, possibly Stuart Pearce, leaving room for a more creative player further forward. Steve McManaman, impressive in Liverpool's excellent start to the season though not yet at his best, is an attractive proposition after missing the Moldova match through injury but it might be time for Le Tissier.

Hoddle has spoken of the understanding players develop when playing together week in and week out - "the little habits and wavelengths happen quicker at club level," he said - which should mean David Beckham retaining his place in front of Gary Neville, and possibly asked to play wider on the right.

Le Tissier also enjoyed a successful liaison with Alan Shearer at Southampton and may be asked to re-create it. Hoddle himself cites Gary Lineker as the player he most enjoyed supplying from midfield and as well as seeing similarities in the two strikers, the coach sees more than most in the sometimes haphazard Le Tissier.

"It is true he had a poor start to the season," Hoddle said, "but the movement ahead of him was not there." The implication is that Le Tissier might well deliver to a Shearer run, rather than delay and be dispossessed. With Paul Ince and Paul Gascoigne certainties - the one a holder, the other a playmaker - it leaves the question of company for Shearer in attack. The call may be for Les Ferdinand to continue his developing Newcastle partnership but it would be hard on Nicky Barmby, who gave a lively, goal- scoring performance in Chisinau. "Alan and Les had a little bit of a problem in the first month when they were looking to go into the same areas," Hoddle said, "but I think they have definitely sorted that out over the last two or three weeks."

Shearer, though, appears at his best alongside a deeper-lying, busier striker, preferring the run of the penalty box to himself. Should the canny Teddy Sheringham still not be fully fit for this level, Barmby fits that bill.

Whatever the attacking permutation, England should have enough to outmanoeuvre the Poles, whose football has been in depression for several years and who were beaten 3-0 at Wembley in qualifying for the last World Cup, before the "made for Wrighty" 1-1 draw in the return. In June they lost 2-0 to Russia in Moscow.

"They will play with two markers and a deep-lying sweeper," Hoddle said. "They will try to get people behind the ball and hit us on the break. But we have got players in the side that I feel can open up the door." Poland's main danger, the Borussia Monchengladbach striker Andrzej Juskowiac, who scored three goals over the two legs to oust Arsenal from the Uefa Cup, has had a disagreement with the coach Antoni Piechniczek and seems unlikely to appear.

England will be relying, too, on the fall-out from the "itz- cummin-ome" Euro 96 atmosphere at the return to Wembley, with the game attracting a capacity 76,000 crowd. An oompah band will play and Baddiel and Skinner will bask and cheerlead again. In the circumstances, it seems almost curmudgeonly to draw attention to an equivalent fixture in 1973, so forget we even mentioned it.

England (possible): Seaman; Neville, Southgate, Pallister, Hinchcliffe; Beckham, Ince, Gascoigne; Le Tissier, Barmby; Shearer.

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