Football: No clues in hunt for Hoddle's captain

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The Independent Online
There were 12 of us gathered in the small room. Outside, the afternoon sun had given way to heavy rain, inside the air grew sticky as we searched for the answer. A man's future was under consideration.

It felt like the set for the film Twelve Angry Men, but this was not so much a whodunit as a whowasit. The Henry Fonda figure thought he knew the man's identity, but instead of pointing the rest of us in the right direction, Glenn Hoddle was playing for time. There were four days to his first match as England coach and he was not ready to reveal his captain.

The 11 pressmen prodded and probed. Would he be young, a new face for a new era (Gareth Southgate)? Or an experienced head to oversee the transition (Stuart Pearce)? Did he need to be a club captain? Would he be a passionate man (Pearce or Paul Ince)? Or a thoughtful one (Southgate)? Was it a short- term appointment (was he waiting for Tony Adams and David Platt to be fit before making a final decision)?

"It's like Cluedo," said Hoddle as the inquisition ground on. "I've not yet decided. It could be short-term. We are now playing a series of away games in tough countries." (It must be Pearce, we thought.)

"But if it is going to be long-term, it has got to be the right man." (Maybe not Pearce.)

"What makes a good captain? Someone who can perceive the game as a good captain should." (Perhaps Platt, or Southgate.)

"People have a fallacy about captains ranting and raving - 'if they put their fists up they're a good captain' - which is a load of rubbish." (Bad news for Pearce and Adams.)

"The best I had was Steve Perryman. He was a tremendous talker and an unselfish player for other players who were more gifted than him. That's a wonderful captain." (Adams after all.)

"We have a few potential captains in the squad. It is important it is someone who handles himself well, on and off the pitch." (That rules out Paul Gascoigne and, more realistically, Spurs' new captain, Teddy Sheringham. Possibly Ince, too. But it is good news for Southgate - or Alan Shearer.)

"A captain is someone players have to respect. There are a few who might think there are reasons why they won't become captain, but we will see." (David Seaman, Shearer?)

Does it matter if he is not captain of his club? "A little bit of experience helps." (Interesting. A simple 'yes' would have ruled out Southgate, he is not the Aston Villa captain, but he was captain at Crystal Palace.)

Is age a factor? "You would not give it to a youngster." (That rules out David Beckham and Sol Campbell.)

So, who is it? The best captain is unquestionably Adams. But he is not fit and will not be a guaranteed long-term choice when he is. In the short- term Pearce would do a fine job in a place like Moldova, where England play on Sunday, but the temptation must be to chose Southgate. Intelligent on and off the pitch, Southgate's appointment would symbolise a new era. He and Hoddle could do for English football what Will Carling and Geoff Cooke did for English rugby.

When asked about the captaincy earlier in the week, Southgate replied: "It is fantastic to be mentioned in that light, but I think that is something for the future. I think he [Hoddle] will choose a player with a lot more experience."

All will be revealed tomorrow, shortly before the squad fly off to Moldova. Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman will not be going, although they did join the training camp yesterday. Steve Howey has already gone home but David Batty and Les Ferdinand began light training yesterday while Gascoigne played in a practice match against an under-21 side.

Since you ask, the first team won comfortably.

Brown courts Ferguson, page 23