Football: `There's no one in the squad who can fill his role'

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By Clive White

IF GLENN HODDLE is able to spring the same sort of surprise on the opposition in France as he did on the nation yesterday with his decision to omit Paul Gascoigne from his World Cup 22, England may be in no need of their wayward genius.

The public at large, however, had yet to be convinced of that last night. In recent weeks former England managers Terry Venables and Bobby Robson have thrown their weight behind those in support of Gascoigne and last night they were joined by Bryan Robson, Gascoigne's manager at Middlesbrough, who declared he was stunned by Hoddle's decision.

"I'm surprised. When Gazza's fit, he's the one who can do it at the highest level," he said. "He was all right when he was with us at Middlesbrough. He helped us win important games and could do that for England."

Gascoigne's former Tottenham and England team-mate Gary Lineker said he was "very surprised" at the decision.

"Gazza's a big tournament player," he said. "Okay, he has not done particularly well in the recent friendlies, but in another couple of weeks he could be fit enough. There's no-one in the squad who can fill the role of Gazza at his best."

Another former Spurs team-mate, Gary Mabbutt, also expressed surprise that Hoddle had not given Gascoigne the time he needed to attain full fitness. "All the signs have been that Hoddle has been backing him and now to suddenly ditch him seems to make no sense.

"But all I'd say is that there are only three unpredictable-type players in the England squad, players who can do a special piece of individual magic on the ball for you, and that's Darren Anderton, Steve McManaman and Gazza."

World Cup winner Roger Hunt believed that an England side without Gascoigne would not repeat the feat of 1966. "Without Gascoigne life will be extremely hard for the boys because he is such a focal point," he said.

Not every one, though, is a Gazza fan or at least a fan of Gazza as he is today. Sir Stanley Matthews was not surprised by Hoddle's decision. "He has not been the same player he was two years ago," said Sir Stanley.

Former manager Tommy Docherty was in no doubt that Hoddle should have "dumped him a while ago", but Mr Rentaquote may not have been far off the mark when he added: "He's maybe regretting leaving out Le Tissier now, and Ray Parlour."