FA chairman Greg Dyke’s decision to bring Glenn Hoddle into his task force to reshape English football has reopened a debate that’s been raging for almost as long as I’ve been watching. What does Hoddle bring to the game?

Hoddle’s abilities as a creative midfielder are rarely questioned, but it’s the question of his wider contribution that prompts debate. Many Spurs fans don’t care to admit it, but even in his 80s pomp, when his mesmerising midfield displays helped make Spurs one of the most entertaining teams in the league, the grumble that “he doesn’t tackle back enough” could still be heard.

The view that he was a bit of a fancy dan, a luxury, was widely shared. Only this week, a senior national newspaper journalist ventured the opinion that Hoddle was someone who “didn’t like to muck in”. Hoddle played under two England managers, Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson, neither of whom built a team around the player labelled the most gifted of his generation. He won just 53 caps in his nine-year international career. Michel Platini said: “If he had been French would have won 150.”

Keith Burkinshaw, admittedly in different circumstances, did build a team around him, bravely opting to keep the still youthful midfielder in the thick of things as Spurs attempted to fight their way back out of the old Second Division in 1977/78. When, the following year, Burkinshaw scooped the world by signing Argentine World Cup stars Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa, Ricky’s first words on seeing Hoddle in training were: “Why have they signed us?”

When Adam Powley and I interviewed Hoddle’s teammates for our book on that great team, The Boys from White Hart Lane, we expected to uncover some tensions within the team about Hoddle. We found none, and we’re convinced that a group of players we found needed little persuasion to speak their minds weren’t just being diplomatic.

Skipper Steve Perryman said: “My job was easy – get the ball and give it to Glenn.” When we asked if there was any resentment over Hoddle’s star status, Perryman looked surprised, asking why a professional would begrudge another professional recognition, or fail to realise quality when they saw it. Other players said much the same – having Hoddle on the team was something to value, something to play for and to as well as with.

After the 1981 FA Cup final replay, Burkinshaw told Perryman that he thought Hoddle had worked harder than in any game he’d seen him play in, covering every area of the pitch. Yet when Hoddle did get widespread praise, as Adam Powley points out in his ebook Glenn Hoddle, it was for withstanding a battering when playing in goal in a cup tie against Manchester United, and for playing on with a head injury in a bloodied bandage in Yugoslavia for England.

The relative values placed on the attributes of skill and grit perhaps tell us all we need to know about the English game’s problems. For the fact is that grit has long been disproportionately valued over skill, witness the praise given to John Terry heading the ball from a prone position, rather than the questions of why he was prone in the first place.

After he finished playing, Hoddle proved himself a highly effective coach. But his ability to relate to players was called into question. Tony Cascarino stuck it to Hoddle, who he played under at Chelsea, accusing him of being aloof and too fond of showing off how good he was. “If he was an ice cream, he’d lick himself,” he said. Add to this Hoddle’s religious beliefs, which included the use of faith healer Eileen Drury, and the questions about man-management increased.

Yet at Swindon, Hoddle brought the club more success than it had had for years, at Chelsea he laid the foundations for the current dynasty, and with England he achieved more and got his team playing a better brand of football than many England managers have ever done. At Spurs too, he began well, but the weight of expectation plus an inability to get on with the dressing room combined to finish him off.

Hoddle is not above criticism. His handling of players at times does leave something to be desired, and his continuing insistence that The Times’s Matt Dickinson stitched him up over the remarks on reincarnation that cost him his last England job do him no good. But, just as that deep-seated English suspicion of flair could be blamed for the failure to value Hoddle the player, so it seems a personal dislike of Hoddle the man could colour contemporary assessments.

Take the press outrage when Hoddle, as England manager, admitted he sometimes lied to the press about injuries or team selection in order to mislead the opposition. Hoddle was lambasted, but Arsene Wenger – a manager who did recognise the  qualities Hoddle could bring to a team when managing him at Monaco – famously does not always “see the incident” or give the fullest version of the facts if he thinks it will harm the team. And quite right too.

Hoddle may not have covered every blade of grass in every game. He may not be the easiest of men to get along with – although, again, that’s not what his Tottenham Hotspur teammates say – but the failure to fully appreciate what he has brought and can bring to the game speaks volumes about English football’s problems.

Martin Cloake has been following Spurs since 1970 and is the author of a number of books on the club, including the award-winning 61: The Spurs Double; The Glory Glory Nights and The Boys from White Hart Lane. His latest ebook, Sound of the crowd, has just been released. Adam Powley’s ebook Glenn Hoddle costs £2.68. 

SHARE

12 COMMENTS

  1. “witness the praise given to John Terry heading the ball from a prone position, rather than the questions of why he was prone in the first place”

    he was prone in the first place because he has just made a tackle that had saved a certain goal as his central defensive partner did his best impression of a headless chicken.

    but anyway…

    rather than looking at what a talented player can bring to the english game, a man who owed his whole career to god given gifts that only a fraction of players have been blessed with…why don’t you ask what a failed manager who spouts nothing but meaningless platitudes as an analyst can bring to the english game?

    you raise a good point about the way talented players are treated in england, but the man to fix that is probably not the guy who played david batty and paul ince as a midfield tandem and ended the international career of paul gascoigne.

    • ‘he was prone in the first place because he has just made a tackle that had saved a certain goal as his central defensive partner did his best impression of a headless chicken.’

      But my point is that no one remembers that.

    • If Hoddle ended Gazza’s career, I suppose he also made him alcoholic? Gazza, sadly was passed his best, Hoddle new it and had to make a judgement call. Batty and Ince in midfield worked well, both providing a foil for the creativity of scholes, mcmanaman, beckham etc.. Ince was a very very good midfielder, often forgotten. Hoddle, but for Beckham’s sending off, (which by the way was the making of the player and that partly could be down to Hoddle) were within sight of really having a stab at the tournament. Hoddle had a strong squad with a good mix, playing well. Different tactics and a real look of comfort playing International football. I for one remember it as the last time England were good as a team and the only time since 1990 I really thought we had a chance of winning the world cup. I believe Hoddle to be a great manager of a football team and he has done a lot for youth development.

  2. To gain recognition in an England shirt you must run around like a headless chicken looking busy,the fact your achieving little dos’nt matter,look busy and the media will love you.Hoddle was one the most gifted players for generations,I agee with Platini.

  3. This article I think sums up the situation well. The reality is that premium is not placed on skill in English footballers. Hodgson might not be the World’s best manager but he really does not have a lot to work with. The onus must lay with the FA. Their development side has been a notorious failure and it needs dramatically to change.

  4. What does Hoddle bring to the game? A lot more than most! Let’s face it players like Hoddle, Le Tissier and Joe Cole have been seen as enigmas, rather than as the main men! Why have someone like Le Tissier who scored goals a plenty for “The Saints” when you can have the mighty Geoff Thomas or the cultured Calton Palmer! Turnip Taylor was no better!

  5. Hoddle would have been a success as England manager but the Press hated him for not being a chummy rent-a-gob like Harry or Keegan. He understands international football and what it takes. That should be used not abused.

  6. As I recall, Ossie Ardiles said when he signed for Spurs in 1978 that, had Hoddle been Argentinian, they would have built the side around him. That the England managers valued Dunkirk-spirited hard workers over players of his ilk (look how many caps Rodney Marsh, Tony Currie and Frank Worthington got between them) probably explains why he wasn’t always an automatic selection and rarely really did himself justice in internationals, certainly not when compared to the way he could dominate for Spurs, as well as scoring fantastic goals.

    Many managers and spectators didn’t, and still don’t, seem to appreciate the defensive value of a player who may not dive headfirst into a ruck of players to nick a ball clear, usually straight back to the opposition, but who can control a ball on a sixpence in his own penalty area, then volley a pinpoint pass out to one of his own team, relieving pressure and keeping possession.

  7. I would say that the inclusion of a certain Scampbell illustrates far more.
    They have elevated a man whose only qualification is that he started moaning about not being able to get a job beforre he was even qualified. And no-one did more to make clubs wary of spending any money developing young than he did. Not exactly a shining example!

  8. Long live The Dunkirk Spirit! Wherever there is mediocrity “mooking in”, the schadenfreude imposed on artists reduced to the level of the lowest common meatheads, there will be a part of the world that is forever England… [sigh]… It was the same attitude to Jimmy Greaves, whose international career was cut off as he turned 27, for lack of “work rate”. The clobberers loved seeing Hoddle bloodied and out of his element in goal, where he couldn’t “show off”. The charm of Spurs worldwide has always been that they never bowed to this English meathead spirit, and went for internationalism and artistry.

  9. What happened vs. West Ham was an absolute disgrace. They might as well tied Sunderland at home.

    Fans should get at least 15 pound vouchers for the next game !!!

    As a Spurs fan, I am totally disgusted with that performance. Hope they can compete against that team from Moldova lol

    Keep Adebayor, he obviously had no one to play with last year and play with at least two strikers and none of this prevent defence crap imo. Three strikers would be ideal for me. Soldado, Defoe, Adebayor, and the other teams can spend most of the match on their heels in my view. Just hammer the ball down the field and let the rest take care of itself. 🙂

    Even if Spurs lose at least they would be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the other team and I would be a happy camper to see some friggin goals lol

  10. Oh jesus……we have gone from a tribute to Hoddle and what he represents (intelligent cultured football) to a call for us to play like Stoke f*cking City!!!! We were crap vs West Ham …….like arsenal were crap vs villa or man utd were against WBA or liverpool were vs Southampton. It happens. Teams have off days. West Ham got one goal after a foul on Lloris and another from a lucky bounce. We have a squad full of new players and we are still missing two key players from last year – sandro and kaboul – as well as adjusting to loss of Bale. To
    start suggesting that we hoof it upfield to Adebayor and hope for knock downs to defoe and soldado is as stupid as it gets. As well as a betrayal of what makes Spurs different. Oh….and we drop the whole back four too so we go into our next game with Chiriches Fryers Rose and who as our defence? And against a 5 man midfield we have Townsend and who else? Sometimes I despair at football fans on Talksport but spare us this sort of crap on here.

LEAVE A REPLY