Hoddle to rely on respect of players

Glenn Moore considers the prospect of England selecting its youngest coach; THE ENGLAND SUCCESSION: The Football Association has taken a bold step in opting for an inexperienced manager
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It is a risk, but it is a justified one for the doubt is not about the the man, but the timing.

At 38, Glenn Hoddle would be the youngest manager-coach England have had. He has just five years' managerial experience and has won nothing more substantial than promotion to the Premiership. Already Don Howe, arguably the most experienced coach in the game, has wondered aloud if Hoddle will feel he is ready.

It is a valid question but, in plumping for Hoddle, the Football Association have chosen potential rather than achievement. They hope he will emulate Franz Beckenbauer, who led his country to World Cup success in his first management job. A less encouraging precedent comes from France, where Michel Platini's initially promising stewardship ended in failure at the last European Championships.

The irony is that the FA, in putting their faith in Hoddle, have made a decision their managers refused to take when he was a player. Hoddle, though the most extravagantly gifted midfielder of his generation, was never successfully harnessed to the England team. He won 53 caps but rarely played in his position of choice, roving the centre of midfield. He was thus unable to make the mark upon the international stage that he could have.

However, it did not stop him becoming one of the most admired players of his era. Read any of those instant profiles of footballers and, to the question "favourite player as a boy" the answer will invariably be "Glenn Hoddle". Not just in England either, a whole generation of Dutch players grew up admiring him and many of his contemporaries, in England and Europe, accord Hoddle a rare respect.

Having such a reputation helps when trying to inspire, cajole or instruct international players, who can have big egos and wallets to match. Terry Venables has it, that is evident in the way the players listen to him, and the way they work on his ideas on the training ground. The previous incumbent, Graham Taylor, did not command respect so easily and seemed uncomfortable handling the most talented players, like Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle.

Hoddle is at ease with such players and they look up to him, even Ruud Gullit, who Hoddle not only attracted to Chelsea but also persuaded that he should not play at sweeper. Instead Hoddle has played David Lee in that position, bringing the best from a player who had languished in Chelsea's reserves. He has also promoted Michael Duberry who, with the Nevilles, has emerged as the best young defender in the country.

In midfield, Dennis Wise has flourished and John Spencer has been convinced, against his initial judgement, that his best position is just behind the centre-forward, not leading the attack.

They each fit into a system which is more Continental than English. Three central defenders, wing-backs on the flanks of a flooded midfield and, usually, a lone striker. When it all clicks, as against Middlesbrough early this year, it is a treat to watch. Hoddle's commitment to the system is such that all Chelsea's teams play that way, right down to the youth sides. It means when young players like Duberry, or Jody Morris, come into the side the adjustment is that much easier.

While similar to Venables' vision it is not as advanced. The England team which played Croatia was genuinely European in approach with attacking midfielders on the flanks, not defenders, and a sweeper behind two mobile markers, rather than three centre-backs.

Maybe, with the better players available to England, Hoddle would also adopt such an approach. His assessment of players has improved - early transfer mistakes like Paul Furlong and Mark Stein have been followed by the successful signing of Dan Petrescu and Terry Phelan.

There is the criticism that, as yet, he has won nothing. But the ability to win the League is not necessarily what is required for England - look at Don Revie's respective records for club and country. National management is about winning a series of one-off matches culminating, hopefully, in an intense but short tournament. Hoddle has shown, through Chelsea's successful cup runs at home and in Europe, and, earlier, through Swindon's success in the play-offs, that he has the ability to organise teams for specific tasks.

It could be good news for Matthew Le Tissier, another player inspired by Hoddle as a youngster but one of the few with similar ability. Hoddle himself was regarded as a special talent from the moment he fired past Peter Shilton from 25 yards on his Tottenham debut in 1976.

He also scored a stunning goal on his England debut against Bulgaria three years later but was then dropped for the next matches. It was the story of his England career.

At White Hart Lane, he attained the status of a legend and won two FA Cup winners' medals. After 11 years, and more than a century of goals, he moved to Monaco where he won the French championship in his second year. In 1991 he became player-manager of Swindon. After two successful years he moved on to Chelsea.

Despite early struggles, Hoddle refused to modify his playing style and he has been rewarded with the creation of a stylish side which has engendered real optimism at Stamford Bridge.

Should he take the national job, the self-belief he showed in that first season will be vital. Chris Waddle, his former Spurs team-mate and singing partner, said: "He's very determined and sticks to his beliefs. He is bound to get criticised but I think he is big enough to handle it."

He will need to be because criticism, both personal and professional, goes with the job. There will be intense scrutiny of his private life - he may have become a dedicated Christian but, as David Ginola found at the weekend, there are newspapers which do not mind rattling skeletons from a decade ago, even innocent ones.

There will also be criticism - often uninformed - of his team. This is the danger in the FA going for someone who, to an extent, will be learning on the job. He has the ability to become a good England manager but it may take time to be translated into results. Where England are concerned, time is not available.

HODDLE FACT FILE

1957: 27 Oct, born Hayes, Middlesex.

1976: Scores on full Tottenham debut against Stoke City.

1979: Scores on England debut against Bulgaria in European Championship qualifier at Wembley, the first of eight England goals.

1981: FA Cup winner's medal.

1982: Scores in FA Cup final and final replay against Queen's Park Rangers collects second winner's medal.

1984: Uefa Cup winner's medal.

1987: Moves to Monaco for pounds 750,000; French title medal within 12 months.

1988: Last of 53 England caps in 3-1 defeat by USSR in European Championship finals in Germany.

1991: Appointed player-manager of Swindon Town in April.

1993: Scores first goal in 4-3 play-off win against Leicester that takes Swindon into Premiership; a month later Hoddle quits to take over at Chelsea.

1994: Chelsea FA Cup finalists.

1995: Plays last game; signs Ruud Gullit from Sampdoria.

1996: Chelsea FA Cup semi-finalists.

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