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Offside, 3 October

Now Spurs fans have cast off their incompetent manager, perhaps they could stop moaning.

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

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It is an incontrovertible fact that Tottenham fans are the world’s biggest moaners. But even by their own miserable standards, the cacophony of bellyaching at White Hart Lane has now reached unprecedented levels, breaking all post-war records.

Football phone-in listeners will be familiar with the litany of complaints. Glenn Hoddle had lost the dressing room. Some players have been injured so long they probably don’t know where the dressing room is. Other players are unfit to wear the shirt. The board doesn’t understand football. Fans even complain that other supporters moan too much.

Now that Hoddle has been given the boot will they finally cease their interminable whining? Don’t hold your breath.

Hoddle was heralded as the returning saviour when he became coach in April 2001. However, those who viewed him as ‘the God of White Hart Lane’, to borrow former Spurs midfielder Tim Sherwood’s phrase, were guilty of turning a blind eye to Hoddle’s well-publicised management shortcomings.

For a start there was Hoddle’s tactless treatment of David Beckham in the 1998 World Cup Finals. Hoddle publicly criticised Beckham for not being focused and blamed him for the defeat against Argentina, something that still rankles with the England captain. ‘Lots of managers play mind games with the press and with opposing teams’, said Beckham in his recent autobiography. ‘But it seemed to me the England manager played mind games with his own players.’

It is conventional wisdom that Hoddle is a great tactician but a lousy man-manager – a kind of Kevin Keegan in reverse. I don’t go along with this. If players cannot implement your tactics then how good a tactician are you really? Tim Sherwood has described team meetings as ‘long drawn-out affairs’ in which ‘the players would just be sitting there scratching their heads and trying to work out what he was on about’. Issuing instructions to a group of players who are neither willing nor able to carry them out doesn’t strike me as a particularly good strategy.

Hoddle’s ineptness at man-management was only compounded when he brought in faith healer Eileen Drewery as an official adviser to the England team. While some players, like Darren ‘Sicknote’ Anderton, believed in Drewery’s healing powers (and a fat lot of good that’s done him), there were others who were quite rightly sceptical.

When, at Hoddle’s insistence, Drewery put her hands on Ray Parlour’s head, the Arsenal midfielder reportedly responded by asking for a ‘short, back and sides’. Parlour was subsequently omitted from the 1998 World Cup squad, fuelling speculation that Drewery had been influencing team selection. Hoddle still believes that his big mistake of the World Cup was not the failure to practice penalties but not taking Drewery to France.

Perhaps Hoddle’s biggest flaw was his flagrant disregard for dressing room confidentiality. Unlike traditionalists like Sir Alex Ferguson, who will defend their players in public but give them a roasting behind closed doors, Hoddle recognised no such distinction. When Teddy Sheringham was pictured in a Portuguese nightclub shortly before the World Cup Finals, Hoddle forced the England striker to give a humiliating public apology. Worse still, Hoddle revealed details of private conversations with England players in his serialised autobiography while he was still national coach. David Beckham has said that the England players ‘lost respect for him over that’.

Hoddle’s chronic inability to relate to his players is perhaps best illustrated by Tony Cascarino’s account of an incident during Hoddle’s spell in charge of Chelsea: ‘Paul Elliott arrived in our dressing room, wearing an immaculate leather trenchcoat. Hoddle raced to the “cover” of a bin in the corner and started shooting him with imaginary bullets – “Pshhhh”, “Pshhhh” – like a five-year-old with a cowboy pistol set. What Paul didn’t realise was that Glenn was trying to be funny, and when Glenn tried to be funny it was time to pass around the laughing gas – he was probably the unfunniest man I have ever known.’

Hoddle’s ‘previous’ should have been well known when he took over the reins at White Hart Lane. But the Spurs faithful refused to believe the worst about their prodigal son. However, as Hoddle alienated a succession of senior Tottenham players, it became evident that his man-management skills had not improved. ‘If anyone dares to speak out, he just sulks and gives them the cold-shoulder treatment’, said Sherwood. ‘He would hold team meetings, ask the players for their opinions and then tell them they were all wrong.’

Hoddle has repeatedly blamed injuries for his Spurs team’s failure to perform. But this is an unconvincing excuse which ultimately cannot mask the uncomfortable fact that Hoddle is simply not very good at managing and motivating footballers.

Perhaps the real tragedy of Glenn Hoddle’s ill-fated tenure as manager is that a Tottenham legend has now become just another excuse for Spurs fans to have a moan.

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Topics Politics

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