Fans' fury puts Hoddle on hold

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The Independent Football

The Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, is having second thoughts about naming Glenn Hoddle as his new manager because of the anger of the club's supporters.

Lowe was due to unveil the former England and Southampton manager tomorrow after talks with Hoddle, but the reaction of fans has put the appointment in doubt.

The Southampton chairman spent yesterday agonising over the move and also put discreet feelers out to some other contenders for the post. Meanwhile sources close to Hoddle feared the move "was slipping away" because of the backlash from fans furious that Hoddle walked out for Tottenham and deserted the club.

Lowe will consult his board today - with the further complication that Gordon Strachan is now expecting to leave his duties this week - and has a major dilemma on his hands. Hoddle is also displeased about the chairman's wavering. He had a chance of returning to football with Nottingham Forest before lining up his own move to Southampton.

It could now be a double setback for Hoddle, who wants the Southampton job but may now find that it has been plucked from his grasp. Lowe does not want to offend his own supporters, but will also be determined not to look foolish by setting up a new manager and then changing his mind.

Lowe yesterday appealed for "family" unity, insisting there is no done deal and reassuring fans the club will take their time in appointing a new man.

He said: "All the angst and worry is understandable but fans need to think how far the club has come over the years and not let a few media headlines split the Southampton family.

"It is the board's job to find the right solution to a management situation which has arisen through Gordon Strachan's decision not to stay beyond the end of the season.

"But we are not under any time pressure to bring someone in. Gordon is under contract to the end of the season so we will take all the time we need to get the decision right."

Strachan is leaving at the end of the season due to family and health reasons but Lowe insisted no decision had been made on his successor.

He added: "Our position has not changed. No-one is ruled in and no-one is ruled out and we do not comment on speculation. The fact is we are still looking at a variety of options and we will not be making any decisions in a hurry.

"It is a very important appointment and we will take our time over it. All this media speculation is putting the club under pressure and much of it is coming from a direction which is very difficult to understand."

According to reports, it was Hoddle who contacted Lowe first about replacing Strachan, and not the other way round. The club had been in discussions with various candidates, including Marseille's former coach Alain Perrin and the Plymouth Argyle manager, Paul Sturrock, when Hoddle picked up the telephone last weekend and put himself forward to replace Strachan.

Impressed by Hoddle's keenness to return to the club he left under a cloud in March 2001, Lowe had no hesitation in opening talks with the manager he believes revitalised Southampton and who he was sorry to see leave. It now seems, however, that the fans might have the last word.