Glenn Hoddle will be sent to Coventry on Wednesday with the message that his Tottenham team had better start doing the talking for him. Last year a home win over Southampton gave Spurs a brief glimpse of life at the top of the Premiership; yesterday's 3-1 defeat by the Saints at White Hart Lane left them looking at the bottom with only four points from six games.
Wednesday's trip to the Midlands for a Carling Cup tie against the First Division side looks like make or break for the man who once graced Tottenham's midfield with consummate skills. Hoddle acknowledged that last night when he said: "The cup game must be a turning point. We have got to lift ourselves for that game, it's as simple as that. I have been in football long enough to know there are turning points. We have to pull together, keep working and show the character to turn it around."
Gordon Strachan, told that his Southampton side were fourth in the table, said: "I'm going home to stare at the Teletext for three hours with a Coca-Cola and a packet of crisps." Hoddle can afford no such luxury, and he knows a cup tie against a side from a lower division is loaded. Defeat is a disaster, but victory means little positive - so what if Spurs win comfortably? Hoddle's managerial methods were questioned when he was in charge of England and he cut short his rehabilitation by being tempted back to north London where he has been under pressure to inspire from off the field the kind of football with which he had beguiled the fans on it in the Seventies and Eighties.
Typically it was one of the players who flourished during Hoddle's reign at Southampton, James Beattie, who set the Saints on their way with a header from a corner after only three minutes. It was a goal that must have had special meaning for a man who had criticised Hoddle's man-management at Southampton. Beattie rubbed in his point by hammering in a 25-yard free-kick just before the interval.
As the past continued to haunt Hoddle, Kevin Phillips, a player he had wanted to sign for Spurs from Sunderland, made it 3-0 after an hour. That was 10 goals conceded in Tottenham's last three games, and Frédéric Kanouté's strike two minutes later offered little optimism for the home fans.
There was something to cheer, though, for the watching England coach, who must have been impressed by Beattie's finishing, even though it was against a defence of Liechtenstein proportions. He could sort out that back line, surely, and he will be in the market for a club job again once his England stint is over. But that will be at Chelsea, won't it? Not necessarily. We hear he has been tempted by the lure of talents beyond compare but the message emanating from Stamford Bridge yesterday was a different one we have heard before in connection with Eriksson: he thought he loved the Swede but he has decided to stick with the Italian. But the "he" in question was not Eriksson; it was Chelsea's new owner, Roman Abramovich.
According to Chelsea's Italian coach, Claudio Ranieri, the Russian whose wealth has oiled the wheels of progress in west London arrived with the idea of installing Eriksson as manager, but has now abandoned it. Dismissing the prospect of being replaced as "rubbish", Ranieri said yesterday: "I've spoken with the directors. Maybe there was something before Roman Abramovich met me - but that finished everything." Oh well, there's always Tottenham.
Abramovich's summer spending started things moving at Chelsea and the only way looked to be up. Yesterday they reached the top by thrashing Wolves 5-0 at Molineux in a match marked by Hernan Crespo's first Premiership goal with his first touch after coming on as a substitute. He added another to complete a rout that was started by Frank Lampard, who put in another superb performance (more good news for Eriksson), and continued by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Damien Duff.Reuse content