Why it is time to try the international position

Glenn Moore says players' readiness to adapt is crucial if Glenn Hoddle is to succeed
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The Independent Online
In the next few days Alex Ferguson will get a telephone call from the England coach. So will Roy Evans, Kevin Keegan and all other managers with England players in their portfolios.

Glenn Hoddle's request will be simple: "Can I borrow a player or two for a chat?" Assuming all assent, the Glenn Hoddle Roadshow will begin a national tour of master classes.

Hoddle wants to speak to his players to speed up England's transformation from Terry Venables' team to his. While pleased with the 3-0 scoreline in Moldova on Sunday he was less happy with the performance. "There is a lot that can be improved upon," he admitted when the team arrived back at Luton Airport yesterday. "We are not playing the way I want to yet. It will take time."

Hardly damning, but stronger than anything Venables uttered in two and a half years. Even after the bore draw in Norway, and dire draw with Switzerland, Venables sought to accentuate any positives he could find.

While Alan Ball has become the latest manager to discover players do not appreciate a dressing down in public, a little bit of criticism is not necessarily a bad thing. Hoddle's new captain, Alan Shearer, was even stronger, describing England as "sloppy" in their early play.

The problem looked to be as much uncertainty as sloppiness. Gary Neville, for example, did not seem sure where he should be playing in the initial stages, but he learned so quickly he emerged as one of England's best players. He also played further forward than he has for Manchester United, often getting level with Shearer. This has always seemed more his brother Phil's forte but, far from looking out of place, he laid on two goals.

Such readiness to adapt will be crucial to Hoddle's success. "At Swindon it worked very quickly," he said. "Maybe it was because it was a lower division, but I did have very responsive players. At Chelsea it took three years, because injuries meant I had to play with a back four all the time."

It also came down to the players. Hoddle's system only took wing at Stamford Bridge after he had bought Dan Petrescu and Terry Phelan to play as wing-backs. At Swindon the early success may have had much to do with the presence of Hoddle at sweeper.

"We'll get there, slowly but surely," Hoddle said. "There are certain ways we can change it offensively, but you need to get the balance between defence and attack right."

That may mean playing attacking flank men, such as Darren Anderton and Steve McManaman, when England meet Poland at Wembley on 9 October. If that is the case Gary Neville could revert to right centre-back with Gareth Southgate displacing Gary Pallister as sweeper.

Southgate had played on the flank in Moldova, said Hoddle, as the way he expected Moldova to play meant that the wide men had more space to get forward - and because Pallister was "not happy when dragged out wide".

The two most satisfying aspects of the match were the sharpness around goal and David Beckham's debut. "When we did get in the penalty area we looked as if we were going to score," Hoddle said. "We had that cutting edge and sometimes that is the difference between winning and losing at international level.

"I wanted to give Beckham the 90 minutes. It was a good game to play him in; a good experience. He need time to settle then he influenced the game.

"Andy Hinchcliffe [the other debutant] worked hard but we did not get enough ball to him. He delivered some lovely crosses when we did, and exceptional corners."

While Hoddle continues to maintain a polite silence on the subject of his predecessor's criticism of his formula he noted: "Germany play exactly the same system and they are the most successful team in Europe. They have played it a long time. You need width and this system gives you width. The first goal [with both wide men, Hinchcliffe and Neville, involved] was the essence of it.

"The Germans play it with a very strong vein of confidence. They have good players who have been playing that system since they were young. It can be very difficult, someone like Hinchcliffe will go back [to Everton] and play at left-back, then he comes back [to England] to, maybe, play in the new position again. In Germany there are probably six or seven 'pushed-in' left-backs who play that way for their clubs week-in, week- out. A lot of their clubs play like that, maybe they are geared to putting international football first. We have played 4-4-2 too long, it has set us back."

Indeed, Moldova may not have had a McDonald's, nor even reliable hot water, but they did play three at the back. They showed some deft touches and, hoped Hoddle, "might upset someone". Unlikely, but an upset is always possible. Just ask Switzerland and Bulgaria - weekend losers in Azerbaijan and Israel respectively.