Hoddle realises his grand ambition

Venables endorses England successor
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He arrived by car, along the Bayswater Road, not by walking across the Serpentine, but Glenn Hoddle carried a conviction upon his appointment as England coach yesterday that suggests he believes miracles will not be required.

The 38-year-old made his bow with the same grace and economy that characterised his playing career. Faced with an audience of more than 100 reporters, 50 cameramen and 13 television crews Hoddle looked as if he has been preparing to lead England all his life.

Which is not surprising, because he has. "I've had a burning ambition to do this since I was a very young age," he said at his unveiling in a hotel near Hyde Park. "It's the only job, in England or abroad, which I would have left Chelsea for."

He has signed a four-year contract, estimated at close to pounds 300,000 a year, which starts on 1 June. He will not, however, be involved with the England squad until after Euro 96. Terry Venables, understandably, wants the team to concentrate exclusively on the championships. The first scheduled fixture for Hoddle is a World Cup qualifier in Moldova on 1 September.

Hoddle put an end to months of speculation and two days of indecision on Wednesday night. He was first approached by Jimmy Armfield, the Football Association's adviser, some weeks ago. Armfield admitted last night the eventual offer, made by Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive, on Tuesday owed something to the fact that he was available. Armfield, speaking on BBC Radio intimated that Bryan Robson, Venables assistant, had been considered first "in the interests of continuity" but, added Armfield, "club interests" had complicated matters.

Kelly refused to go into detail about the timing of the offer but it seems clear that Hoddle was spoken to before his club. Though his contract has less than a month to run, it was not the ideal way for the FA to go about the appointment even if they did not directly contravene any regulation.

The raising of this subject at yesterday's press conference clearly irked Kelly, but Hoddle, who sat between Kelly and Venables, seemed unconcerned. In general he looked relaxed but wary. No different, in fact, to his approach when dealing with the media after Chelsea matches.

Hoddle said: "It is a privilege and an honour. That it why I took it. My ambition is to be successful, the talent is there. There is a crop of exciting young players coming through which gives me the chance to do well. I want to do so in a manner which is close to my heart and, I believe, close to the public's as well."

Hoddle said the appointment would be "the pinnacle of any management career". His own started at 17, when he coached an Essex Sunday league side while still an apprentice at Tottenham. The experience, he said later, was useful but it was frustrating trying to explain ideas to players not good enough to understand them.

The same problem appeared to dog his early days at Chelsea but, this time, he will be dealing with players capable of putting his ideas into practice. Not only will they be the best the country had to offer, they have already been directed towards a more accomplished style by Venables.

"Terry's work has been a major influence in my taking over," Hoddle said. "It would have been wrong to come in if the tactics had been totally different. That would have been too drastic a change.

"The way Terry has been playing has been very brave at times. He knows exactly what he wants and the team now know what he wants. For me it is very exciting, the last two performances have been superb.

"Sometimes we admire what goes on across the channel and then raise eyebrows if we do it over here. I think people will accept it if we win."

Kelly confirmed: "We have preached continuity and we believe Glenn has similar football philosophies to Terry. He believes in intelligent players and raising the sophistication level of England players. Like Terry he is keen to bring players through the system playing a similar way throughout the teams, from youth to senior level."

Venables warmly approved Hoddle's appointment. "I coached him when he was in the under-21's and he was always keen to look at new things even then. I've not had much contact since but, when I had a meeting with the managers whose clubs had been in Europe we got talking and it was obvious we had thoughts along the same lines.

"I have said that I think it is an older man's job but that is a rule of thumb. When you begin talking about personalities, and about Glenn, I would say it is a good choice. He has experience abroad - and had it under a very good coach [Arsene Wenger at Monaco]. He has good football knowledge and is possibly one of the best players this country has ever had."

Hoddle returned the compliment by suggesting that, had Venables been England manager when he was playing, "he would have brought the best out of me". He also addressed the question of his own experience - he is 38, has been a manager for just five years, has not gained the FA's own coaching badge and has only won a promotion through the play-offs.

"I think the experience I've gained through management and as a player has been invaluable," Hoddle said. "If I did not feel ready for the job I would not have taken it. In this country experience is sometimes judged by grey hairs but that is not necessarily the case."

Hoddle will be back at work today, preparing Chelsea for Sunday's match with Blackburn Rovers. He intends to say a special goodbye to the supporters then - "it was heart-rending to leave," he added.

Then he will appoint his backroom staff - no clues as yet, but they are unlikely to include Bryan Robson, who may be viewed as too much of an equal to Hoddle - and begin studying England's World Cup opponents and following their Euro 96 campaign.

His task will be hard enough without great expectations being placed upon him. "If I was worried about the media scrutiny I wouldn't have taken the job," he said. "It's a concern but it's up to me to deal with it. It's not a reason to turn the job down."

Then, with the cameras about to stop clicking and whirring, there was an intriguing postscript. Asked if he would one day like to return to coaching England, Venables said: "Yes, of course, I've made it very clear that I've enjoyed it. There have been difficult times but it is a privilege. If the chance came, I would consider it seriously - but not for four years."

That time is for Hoddle to make his mark. He will be 42 by then. Will he have put a fresh trophy into Lancaster Gate, or will he only have a head of grey hair to show for it? Wish him luck, for he will need good fortune as much as good judgement.

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