Football: Ignored Cole calls Hoddle a 'coward'

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The Independent Online
ANDY COLE, the Manchester United striker who was stunned to be left out of Glenn Hoddle's squad for tonight's friendly at Wembley, has sent a letter to the Football Association to complain about comments made about him by the England coach.

Cole, also ignored for the World Cup in France during the summer, has contacted the FA's chief executive, Graham Kelly, through his business manager, Paul Stretford, according to today's Sun newspaper. "I am protesting about spurious allegations," Stretford said. "Andy has a fine record and Hoddle's statement are out of order."

Cole has scored 65 times in 132 games for the Old Trafford side, including seven goals already this season. But Hoddle, who chose to include the 35-year-old Ian Wright and Aston Villa's new signing Dion Dublin, 29, ahead of Cole for tonight's game against the Czech Republic, said before the World Cup that he believed Cole did not convert enough chances into goals and claimed last week that the situation had not changed. "There has not been enough time since the World Cup finals for Cole to sort out that aspect of his game," the England coach said.

Responding to the criticism, Cole is reported as saying: "His [Hoddle's] behaviour towards me has been cowardly. He is a bad communicator. His comments about me are diabolical and disrespectful."

He continued: "He has incensed me so much that in the likelihood of him picking me in future I'm afraid I would have to think seriously about it. If Hoddle doesn't want me to play then the feeling is mutual." The latest outburst will come as a blow to Hoddle, who was hoping to avoid any further controversy following the furore surrounding his World Cup diaries and his use of the faith healer Eileen Drewery.

And it will undoubtedly give Jo Chovanec, the Czech Republic coach, a psychological edge to see his opposite number once again having to respond to criticism of his methods. Chovanec was eager to appear diplomatic yesterday ahead of his side's friendly against England. When asked how he felt about the prospect of facing an experimental side devoid of Alan Shearer and Michael Owen, he replied through his interpreter: "We won't pay special attention to the England side or its experiments." Pausing for a second while his words were translated, he then tapped the interpreter on the arm to ensure a qualifying phrase was added. "With the greatest possible respect to the England team, of course," he said.

The Czech Republic have won seven games and drawn two from the nine played since Chovanec ended a career in club football that saw him play for PSV Eindhoven, coach at Sparta Prague and turn his hand to international management.

"For our national team, every game is important, and especially tomorrow's game with England," he said. "I suppose both the England team and the Czech team belong to the better half of Europe's national sides and I expect a strong fight."

CZECH REPUBLIC (probable): Kouba (Viktoria Zizkov); Novotny, Votava (both Sparta Prague), Repka (Fiorentina); Poborsky (Benfica), Bejbl (Atletico Madrid), Nemec, Latal (both Schalke 04), Berger (Liverpool); Lokvenc (Sparta Prague), Smicer (Lens).