The Southampton chairman, Rupert Lowe, yesterday refused to rule out the possibility that Glenn Hoddle is on the verge of making a controversial return to the club as Gordon Strachan's successor. Speculation is rife around St Mary's about an imminent appointment with even the club's official website, through which Lowe makes all official pronouncements, saying "there is little doubt of his coaching credentials and success record during his [previous] time here".
Such an endorsement, which came as part of an article that made no mention of fans' recent vocal protests against Hoddle, might be interpreted as a prelude to a comeback. Hoddle first took over at Southampton in January 2000 but left for Tottenham amid much acrimony in March 2001. The only obstacle to a second managerial spell on the south coast is the extent to which Lowe is influenced by supporters. He has not balked at controversial decisions in the past, including releasing manager Dave Jones, selling Dean Richards to Spurs and local favourite Wayne Bridge to Chelsea. "Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out," he said yesterday.
When Strachan announced he would be leaving St Mary's at the end of the season, Lowe had concerns about demotivation within the squad. Some spirited recent performances have allayed those fears and reduced the urgency to replace Strachan. But Lowe is understood to have sounded out several possible successors including the Frenchman Alain Perrin, recently sacked by Marseille, Plymouth's Paul Sturrock, Wales' Mark Hughes and Hoddle, who has never been a man to scoff at resurrection.
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