Gascoigne decision rests with Hoddle

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The Independent Online
Glenn Hoddle looks set to brave a public outcry today and retain Paul Gascoigne in his England squad for the World Cup trip to Georgia next week.

Women's groups have led the demands for the troubled Rangers player to be axed for his alleged beating of his wife, Sheryl, stories he has not denied.

The England coach held further discussions with Football Association chairman, Keith Wiseman, yesterday about how to handle the controversy. However, though concerned with their public image, the FA is prepared to leave the final decision to Hoddle, especially so early in his reign.

All the signs are that he will not cast Gascoigne into purgatory. In fact, as well as standing by his man, he could bring back two other footballing reprobates, Ian Wright and Tony Adams, for the difficult trip in place of the injured Gary Pallister and Alan Shearer.

It is a difficult squad for Hoddle, with Stuart Pearce struggling with injury too. Wright attracts almost as much controversy as Gascoigne, but must have thought he had seen the last of an England shirt with his 20th cap against Romania at Wembley in October 1994.

But he is in excellent form, with 12 goals in his last 12 games and Hoddle looks set to recall him, though Liverpool's Robbie Fowler - five goals in his last four outings - is more likely to play a part in Georgia.

Pearce has missed the last two Nottingham Forest games with a back problem which gives Hoddle real problems. Graeme Le Saux is at last back in action for Blackburn and Phil Neville is playing again for Manchester United, but both are desperately short of match practice. Coventry's John Salako might provide the surprise left-sided cover.

The Georgian government has abandoned plans to put their clocks back in line with the rest of Europe. The decision, made on economic grounds to give Georgia's industries as much daylight as possible and make savings on energy costs, means that Glenn Hoddle's team now face a five-hour time difference for the qualifier on 9 November instead of the expected four.

However, England have held talks with the Georgian FA and come to a new agreement over kick-off times which means that no one will notice the difference back home. The senior game, due to start at 4pm Georgian time, has now been put back to 5pm, thus retaining the noon London-time start.

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