Football: The Hoddle Sacking: Hoddle pays for eccentricity

FA dismisses manager whose position had become untenable and turns to technical director Wilkinson
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The Independent Online
AFTER A day of meetings, missed deadlines and chilly vigils Glenn Hoddle last night became the first England manager to be sacked since Sir Alf Ramsey was fired in April 1974.

The axe finally fell at 7pm last night when David Davies, the Football Association's acting chief executive, read a statement. "With regret the FA and Glenn Hoddle have today agreed to terminate Glenn's contract," Davies said.

"After more than 24 hours of meetings and discussions it became apparent to all those concerned that this was the right decision for English football. The position had become increasingly untenable for both the FA and for Glenn. He accepts he has made a serious error of judgement and of course has apologised.

"The past few days have been painful for everyone involved, but that is as nothing compared to any offence that may have been caused to disabled people in our community and in our country. We accept this wasn't Glenn's intention.

"It's unquestionable though that the controversy over whatever was or wasn't said had damaged both Glenn and his employers. The FA has rightly considered all the options over recent hours. Glenn has served the England team with dedication and with loyalty. But eventually all parties agreed that in the circumstances this was the correct way forward.

"Howard Wilkinson is being asked to take charge of the England team for the game with France on 10 February."

Rumours were rife that Wilkinson would be joined at the helm by David Platt, the former England midfielder who resigned as Sampdoria's team supervisor yesterday after a brief, unhappy spell back in Italy's Serie A.

The key players in the FA - Geoff Thompson, the acting chairman; Davies; Noel White, a Liverpool director and the chairman of the FA's international committee; David Richards, the chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, David Dein, the vice-chairman of Arsenal; and David Sheepshanks, the chairman of Ipswich - either convened at the Park Court Hotel, a few hundred yards from the FA's Lancaster Gate offices, or were on the end of a telephone line, from early morning. Already television crews were parked outside, photographers and journalists gathered on the pavement.

The lunchtime deadline passed. Then the mid-afternoon one. A tea-time deadline came and went. Rumours circulated, most of them about Hoddle's whereabouts.

The FA had by now moved on from their morning meeting of movers and shakers to a wider one involving the full 14-man international committee. The talking continued, and the delay prompted a belief that lawyers had become involved. Speculation followed. Was Hoddle threatening to take the FA to court with a charge of unfair dismissal if he was sacked? That would worry the FA who were desperately keen to settle the matter as soon as possible and would abhor a messy court case. Hoddle would feel he had a good case, too, if he was sacked on the word of a journalist. However, should the FA back down for this reason, it would presumably only forestall his exit until the first defeat, when he could be fired on results.

As darkness fell, word went round that Hoddle would at last be coming to meet his employers face-to-face.

Wilkinson will take over while the FA search for a long-term replacement and will tomorrow name a squad for France game. Jim Smith, the manager of derby and a long-standing friend of Wilkinson, said: "I personally think Howard he could do the job for a long time. He will be going in as a stop-gap but I think he has everything that is needed in the modern game to be England manager. Howard has won the championship, been a successful manager, has the coaching pedigree and the respect of everyone in football."

Hoddle took charge after Terry Venables had led England to the semi-finals of Euro 96. He was initially successful with World Cup qualifying victories in Moldova and Georgia and at home to Poland. David Beckham was blooded and Alan Shearer made an impressive captain. England then lost at home to Italy with Hoddle's strange inclusion of Matt Le Tissier back-firing. The Southampton player was soon dropped but the team recovered, doing well in Le Tournoi in the summer of 1997 then qualifying for the World Cup finals with a bold draw in Italy.

That was the apogee of Hoddle's reign. England played patchily in the build-up to the World Cup losing at home to Chile and being held by Saudi Arabia. On the plus side, Hoddle introduced Michael Owen, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand but he also became embroiled in controversy regarding the role of Eileen Drewery, his faith-healing friend, the exclusion of Chris Sutton and over comments made about Owen.

He then dropped Paul Gascoigne from the World Cup but, less bravely, omitted Owen and Beckham from England's opening games. They responded well on their recall against Colombia and Hoddle claimed he had planned it that way. But the damage had been done with the defeat by Romania, and England, having failed to practise penalties, went out to Argentina in spot-kicks on the second round.

Then came the publication of Hoddle's World Cup diary, which provoked a furore, Tony Adams' autobiography, which criticised Hoddle, and the defeat by Sweden. A home draw with Bulgaria, and scrappy win over Luxembourg, left England struggling to qualify for next year's European Championships, while Andy Cole became branded Hoddle a "coward" for not picking him.

The encouraging November victory over the Czech Republic left Hoddle with a record of 17 wins and six defeats in 28 games. There was only one win, over Italy in a friendly, in five matches against a traditional footballing power, although England also defeated France a year before they became world champions. He had hoped to wipe away the memories of a disappointing 1998 with another victory over France next week. Instead he might find himself working there, with Monaco.

The only other England manager to be sacked, Ramsey, who was dismissed after England failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup finals. While there remains some criticism of his personality and methods, his success in leading England to victory in the 1966 World Cup still stands as the apex of national footballing achievement.

History is likely to judge Hoddle more harshly. He was regarded as a talented player who failed to reach his potential at international level. While he may yet achieve success at club management, as an international coach he may come to be seen as a crank whose early promise was dissipated by his confused ideology and inflexibility.

December 1997: States that Michael Owen cannot be guaranteed a place in the World Cup squad. Hoddle says: "There are certain things he needs to stamp out of his game and from his off-the-pitch situation as well. He is not the finished article that everyone thinks he is." He later telephones Liverpool manager Roy Evans to explain he has "been misinterpreted."

May 1998: Hoddle names his World Cup squad in La Manga, leaving out Paul Gascoigne, who he claims is overweight. He also criticises the player's drinking habits, Gascoigne having got drunk while playing a round of golf the previous day.

June 1998: Criticises David Beckham, saying he "was not focused, he was vague, and maybe his club need to look at that further. He's got to understand that football comes first."

August 1998: Hoddle says his only mistake in the World Cup was not taking faith-healer Eileen Drewery to France, claiming she "could have brought us that extra 20 per cent."

January 1999: Hoddle is quoted in The Times as saying that disabled people are suffering as a result of sins in a past life. Later he claims he has been misquoted and threatens legal