Football: Players leap to Hoddle's defence

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ENGLAND'S PLAYERS, said to be at odds with Glenn Hoddle over his tactics, have been gathering around to protect him amid the latest controversy surrounding the England coach.

Claims that his captain, Alan Shearer, had a showdown with Hoddle in the dressing-room after the 3-0 win in Luxembourg have been refuted by the Newcastle striker himself and the Aston Villa defender Gareth Southgate.

There were also claims, made by the Talk Radio host Danny Baker at the weekend, that one England player taped the dressing room bust-up.

Shearer himself was adamant that the outburst never happened. In a regular newspaper column he said: "I couldn't believe my eyes when I read the newspaper report. The words that I am alleged to have said to Glenn Hoddle are pure fiction. The information in the article concerning myself and the England coach is drastically wrong."

Shearer admitted there had been a discussion between the coach and his players but that it was wrong for anything sinister to be read into this.

"I think it is a healthy thing for players to be given an opportunity to air their views immediately after the final whistle and that's exactly what happened," Shearer said.

The Blackburn manager, Roy Hodgson, is making a surprise bid to sign veteran Welsh striker Dean Saunders to help him in his injury crisis.

Hodgson wants the Sheffield United player on loan for three months as a replacement for the injured Kevin Gallacher.

And with Chris Sutton also sidelined, Kevin Davies not fully fit and Martin Dahlin released, Rovers may even be willing to pay the Blades a "loan fee" to bring in Saunders.

Hull City, whose existence was put in danger by owner David Lloyd's threat to withdraw his financial backing, appear to have been saved. A pounds 2.4m deal was expected to go through last night.

The buyers, who have also purchased rugby league's Hull Sharks, are two as yet un-named businessmen based in Stratford-upon-Avon and the Home Counties who plan to sell the grounds of both clubs and relocate to a new stadium.

The plan is similar to that proposed by Lloyd, the British Davis Cup tennis captain, before he became disillusioned with his reception in the city. "I will not provide a single penny more," he said two weeks ago, prompting fears that the Third Division club would go into receivership. The prospect of new owners has been given a guarded welcome by the fans' organisation, Tigers Co-Operative, which was has been negotiating to save the club.

Michele Padovano's move from Crystal Palace to Metz, due to be completed tomorrow, is in jeopardy after he suffered a serious knee injury when training with the French First Division side yesterday which could put him out for six months.