Hoddle sets target for Gascoigne

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The Independent Online
England's coach, Glenn Hoddle, yesterday outlined the challenge that lies ahead for Paul Gascoigne if he is ever to re-establish himself in the national side.

While Hoddle, who played himself until he was 38, held out hope for the Rangers player, he nevertheless made it clear that much work was still to be done before the possibility of an England return could be entertained. "I have spoken to Paul and his manager Walter Smith at length," Hoddle said. "Unfortunately, Paul hasn't had a year free from injury for several years and his first port of call now is to sort that out."

Hoddle made clear that if Gascoigne was to return to his best after his latest ankle injury, it would require "a lot of prevention work". He added: "There are some things he needs to change in his life. It is partly to do with the mental side of things. He has to realise that you can't do at 30 the things you used to get away with when you were 21."

Asked if he felt that Gascoigne ever would play again for England, Hoddle responded: "I can't give you that answer. That is something that needs to be addressed to Paul."

But Hoddle made it clear that Gascoigne would not be ruled out on the grounds of age alone. "There have been some very fine players at 35 years of age. Franco Baresi, for example. Nowadays if you keep control of things I think there is a future for players of 34, 35. And it will be no different for Paul if he can achieve that."

Hoddle played down the perennial newspaper reports cataloguing Gascoigne's misdemeanours, without completely denying them. "Probably 75 per cent of what you hear happening to Paul in his life is fiction. But, yeah, there are facts there that need to be dealt with."

Asked whether he would prefer Gascoigne to move to an English club if - as has been rumoured - he left Rangers this summer, Hoddle replied that it would make little difference to his ability to help. "When players go back to their clubs after England matches it is a delicate situation. They are working for their managers then."

England's training was put back yesterday to enable players from Liverpool and Spurs who had played the previous night to join up with the squad. Hoddle acknowledged that there had been some work to do with both Liverpool and Manchester United players after their European defeats this week. "Obviously they are a little bit down, and you would expect that," he said. "But now they have to pick themselves up and we have got a good spirit in the squad. Already there are a few jokes going round."

Hoddle accepted that only one result was acceptable against Georgia in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier. "We have to win because this group is so tight," he said. "The word is `vigilant' for this. Georgia have got immense talent in midfield. We shackled that and passed the ball well over there. But I think in many ways Wembley might suit them more than their own pitch."

While the squad is carrying fewer injuries than it was in the last three or four get-togethers, Hoddle reported that there were doubts over Stuart Pearce, Ian Walker and Robbie Fowler.

Pearce is suffering from a calf injury while Walker, one of four goalkeepers in the squad, has an Achilles tendon problem. Fowler's problems appeared to be less serious - he received a knock in the match against Paris St Germain. There was some good news, too, as Hoddle was able to announce that his centre-half Tony Adams would resume training today.

n The Rangers chairman David Murray yesterday backed his manager Walter Smith who criticised Paul Gascoigne in Monday's Independent. However Murray also suggested that Gascoigne would be offered a new contract. "He's under contract for 15 months and although Walter has made his thoughts public I think it was the appropriate time to make it," said Murray.

"Walter said it when there was a gap period and I agree with his comments. But Rangers is bigger than Paul Gascoigne. We will sit down and hopefully extend his contract and that is all I have to say about it at the moment."

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