THE HODDLE SACKING: The Verdict - Controversy taints achievements

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The Independent Online
GLENN HODDLE'S reign began after Terry Venables had led England to the semi-finals of Euro '96. He was initially successful with World Cup qualifying victories in Moldova and Georgia and at home to Poland. David Beckham was blooded and Alan Shearer made an impressive captain. England then lost at home to Italy with Hoddle's strange inclusion of Matt Le Tissier back-firing. The Southampton player was soon dropped, but the team recovered, doing well in Le Tournoi in the summer of 1997 then qualifying for the World Cup finals after a bold goalless draw in Italy.

That was the apex of Hoddle's reign. England played patchily in the build- up to the World Cup, losing at home to Chile and being held by Saudi Arabia. On the plus side, Hoddle introduced Michael Owen, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand but he also became embroiled in controversy regarding the role of Eileen Drewery, his faith-healing friend, the exclusion of Chris Sutton and over comments made about Michael Owen.

He then boldly dropped Paul Gascoigne from the World Cup squad but, less bravely, omitted Owen and Beckham from England's opening games. They responded well on their recall against Colombia and, with the benefit of hindsight, Hoddle claimed he had planned it that way all along. But the damage had been done with the defeat to Romania and England, having failed to practise penalties, went out to Argentina in spot-kicks in the second round.

Then came the publication of Hoddle's World Cup diary, which provoked a furore, Tony Adams' autobiography, which criticised Hoddle, and the defeat to Sweden. A home draw with Bulgaria, and scrappy win over Luxembourg, left England struggling to qualify for next year's European Championship while Andy Cole became the latest dissenter, branding Hoddle a "coward" for not picking him. Given the attacking riches at his disposal Hoddle may have been justified in that but general disquiet over his selections was illustrated by a comment from Sir Bobby Charlton this week. Speaking on radio, Charlton said: "I sometimes wonder what Glenn Hoddle is doing. I always feel the balance is not quite right whenever I see the team go out. I wonder if he handles the young players the right way to give them confidence."

Despite all the criticism, Hoddle managed to hold on to his job, his position buttressed with the football-following public by their fond memories of the peerless flair which characterised his own playing career with Tottenham, Monaco and England, and in private by his personal faith.

The encouraging November victory over the Czech Republic left Hoddle with a record of 17 wins and six defeats in 28 games. There was only one win - over Italy in a friendly - in five matches against the traditional footballing powers, although England also defeated France a year before they became world champions.

Hoddle had hoped to wipe away the memories of a disappointing 1998 with another victory over France next week. Instead he might find himself working there, with Monaco.