Glenn Hoddle, who has long believed in the mental and, indeed, spiritual wellbeing of his players, claimed last night that Wayne Rooney would benefit from sessions with a sports psychologist to help cure his suspect temperament.
As his Wolverhampton Wanderers side prepare for their fourth-round FA Cup tie with Manchester United at Molineux today, the former England coach said that the 20-year-old striker "could become greater than anything England's ever had. I really believe that". However, Hoddle added that though Rooney's demeanour (referring to his aggression on occasions towards officials, opponents and even his own players, notably David Beckham against Northern Ireland) was "a part of his power, a part of his mental strength, part of his make-up, there's definitely some work that could be done with sports psychologists that would help him.
"I believe that, from what I've experienced as a player. If you try and curb it too much, it's going to change him. But I do think there's something in there that you can trigger to help him deal with it."
The coach, who introduced his England players to faith healer Eileen Drewery - describing her as "more of an agony aunt" - before and during France '98, said his belief in sports psychology went back to 1981, when he was a player at Tottenham. "There's certainly some stuff that could help him on that," he said. "I've seen where it can help players. I'm only going by experience. If that's the only downside to Wayne, don't change him. He's just a wonderful talent. If he can overcome that as well, you're getting close to a complete player."
Hoddle, who arrived at Molineux 13 months ago, added that Rooney could be the special player who, over the years, had been the catalyst for a World Cup-winning performance. "Bobby Charlton, Pele, Maradona, Zidane," he suggested. "Cruyff was the only special player that never won a World Cup. We're all hoping it might be Wayne this summer - but a Rooney in four years' time could be even better."
He added: "He's a supreme talent, one who's got another 10 years, probably more, of just getting better and better. He's got so much more to learn, and will experience much more. Quite honestly, that's only going to add to his performance. Like all special players, it doesn't matter if he's not at his very best. Even when he's average, he's better than most people. Like Pete Sampras in tennis. He may not have been playing well, then comes a big point, and bang. When he is at his best, look out. There's nothing better in the game."Reuse content