Football: Shearer blames Hoddle for England flops

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The Independent Online
THE ENGLAND captain, Alan Shearer, was last night reported to have laid the blame for the disappointing performances in the European Championship qualifying games at the feet of Glenn Hoddle.

Shearer's criticism of the England coach is understood to have come after Wednesday's 3-0 win in Luxembourg, which, despite the scoreline, was memorable only for the loud boos which accompanied the team off the pitch.

According to the Sun, Hoddle addressed his players in the dressing-room after the game and demanded to know the reason why below-par performances against Sweden and Bulgaria had been followed by another one against the part-timers from one of the smallest footballing nations in Europe.

Shearer, who scored a penalty, responded by asking Hoddle whether he had ever thought it could be down to him and not the players. A stunned Hoddle then walked out.

Coming from his captain, such criticism will have been particularly hard to bear for Hoddle, whose popularity has been in a downward spiral since England's heroic exit from the World Cup finals at the hands of Argentina.

His World Cup diary sparked a furore when he revealed details of Paul Gascoigne's furious reaction to being dropped from the squad to go to France, while his reliance on faith healer Eileen Drewery has been questioned, as has England's use of vitamin and mineral injections for players.

England lost 2-1 in Sweden on 5 September after taking the lead after 72 seconds through Shearer and then conceding two goals in two minutes. The visit of Bulgaria produced no goals but the first signs of unrest among the England following. Cries of "what a load of rubbish" escorted Hoddle down the Wembley tunnel. Five days later in Luxembourg the barracking continued with fans sarcastically chanting "watch out, we've had a shot".

England, third in their group behind Poland and Sweden, do not play in the championship again until 27 March when the Poles - played two, won two - visit Wembley. Hoddle has until then to answer Shearer's question.