Sunday, 29 December 2013

Glenn Hoddle and rewriting history

Before I start... don't forget the LBITCR Christmas Quiz is still running. You can enter until 2nd January. But, to our tale...

Glenn Hoddle was one of many fine English footballers who the English, and English media, understood too late and who did not get the opportunities he should have done in the white of England.

We learn little from history and what we saw happen to Scholes - a genius who we should have built a team around for a generation - we saw happen previously with Hoddle. Others in that ship called 'Lost Hope' would include Joe Cole and Matt Le Tissier. How Hoddle was treated has shaped English football for generations and continues to do so.

Unlike many of England's finest players, Hoddle dared to go abroad and play on the continent (with considerable success at AS Monaco). Furthermore, his Glenn Hoddle Academy - for those players released by clubs - is a fine innovation. All of this is to admired.

That said, the way the English press - and English footballing populous - discuss him one would think this is a man who has achieved things as a manager.

In recent weeks, some of the discussion around him - and the potential return to Tottenham - seemed to elevate him to Cruyff like levels. Except, of course, Cruyff is one of the finest players to play the game, one of the finest managers to have managed a team and probably the most influential thinker on football in the past 40 years and Hoddle, well, doesn't compare in any sense. Cruyff would be hated if he were English. He thinks too much. He's too clever by half. 

Spurs have an odd place in the English footballing psyche. A grand club, a great club, a huge club and an important one and, one which, in my life time, seems more obviously linked to the English media and English football establishment than, for instance, Liverpool, Everton or Manchester United. Fleet Street used to love Venables. Then she loved Redknapp. And, since he retired, perhaps as guilt about his playing days and the way he was treated, they have loved Hoddle. Yes, they turned on him (to an extent) over those comments but not in the visceral way they have done over other managers.

Rarely has a manager with such little going for him, and such little achievement, been given the England job. Think of the great managers of England who never coached the national team - Brian Clough, Bob Paisley, Bill Nicholson, Herbert Chapman, Howard Kendall, Howard Wilkinson (yes, an England manager but only as caretaker), Harry Catterick, Ron Saunders, and Joe Fagan. Then think of where Hoddle was when he got the England job - mid-table with Chelsea.

Hoddle has been given more breaks than most managers. After some moderate success with Swindon he was offered the Chelsea job. Now Chelsea in the early 1990s was not the Chelsea of today but it was, regardless of what fans of certain clubs sing, a club with a history and a swagger.

A spell at Chelsea where he won nothing, and won around a third of his games, saw him offered the England job.

Before it all went quince-shaped, Hoddle did rather well for England. He won Le Tournoi and guided us to our usual knock-out at the quarter final stage in 1998 but his England made the heart sing. Becks was there and little Michael Owen was burgeoning and it looked, for the first time, like we might do something. It was an era of happiness and joy for England. His supporters will maintain that his record is only bettered by Ramsey (the untouchable) and Capello. Few, however, in the media make passionate defences of Capello.

Of course, a lot of this is fiction. It wasn't Hoddle's fault we were knocked out by Argentina. It was Beckham's flick at Simeone. It was Simeone's wretchedness. It was the unfairness of the penalties. If only. If only. If only. But for the wind, the rain and the bounce Hoddle would have won the World Cup, or inspired the early era Golden Generation, to greatness at a future tournament.

Hoddle shows us that a crap club manager can, in the right circumstances, succeed at national level (to a limited extent) as the jobs are fundamentally different.

Hoddle did reasonably well with England but his time with England has been dressed up to flatter him and flatter our memory of that England team. No one is performing the hagiography on Capello - and consider what that man achieved at club level! This is storytelling on a grand scale to make us consider what might have been and to ensure that we do not consider the continuing horror that our greatest team since 1966, so we are told, wasn't as good as we imagine. It is much better, for our well-being, to think that 1998 was outwith our control rather than that we just weren't good enough. 

We are told he was innovative but when we ask what was the innovation the smoke creeps in front of the mirror and we are pointed in a different direction.
Ultimately he inherited a successful England team (the 1996 vintage). Many of those players - Beckham, Scholes, McManaman, Shearer, Neville - had matured significantly in those two years. Moreover, in Owen and Ferdinand, we saw the first glimpses of the Golden Generation. 

Why would we want, after all and given England's record, to take a man who missed one penalty in his entire career to a World Cup? This may seem a trivial point but that triviality shows us a lot about Hoddle - he never forgave England for not seeing his ability and he turned that on Le Tissier for one mistake in a friendly against Italy. Only a vindictive man would have picked Anderton or Merson ahead of Le Tissier. The abused becomes the abuser, as they say. 

Why would we want to take Paul Gascoigne, not what he was but still a fine player, when we could take David Batty or Rob Lee? Again, one wonders if Hoddle was prosecuting Gascoigne for the sins committed against him.

He was sacked from the England job for - at best - regrettable and - at worst - reprehensible comments. Those comments - lest we forget - were:

'My beliefs have evolved in the last eight or nine years, that the spirit has to come back again, that is nothing new, that has been around for thousands of years. You have to come back to learn and face some of the things you have done, good and bad. There are too many injustices around'

'You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and half-decent brains. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime. I have nothing to hide about that. It is not only people with disabilities. What you sow, you have to reap. You have to look at things that happened in your life and ask why. It comes around'

I didn't agree with Hoddle then and I don't now. That said, I agree with everyone's right to say what they like and that might include, from time to time, people saying stupid things. He probably shouldn't have been sacked for it (in my view) but there we are.

Note, though, upon having his contract terminated that clubs from all over Europe didn't rush to snap this genius up.

He moved to Southampton were he did reasonably for a short while but left for Spurs where, bluntly, he didn't. Upon being sacked by Spurs he went to Wolves where, again, he didn't excel. Since 2006, he hasn't held a managerial job. Consider that. Then consider it against the number of opportunities that have come about in England's top two divisions since 2006.
At each club he has managed - and, let's face it, he has been afforded more opportunities at larger clubs than many more talented managers - he has performed badly. That's before we discuss his apparently appalling man-management techniques and his disgraceful treatment of certain players.

John Nicholson, in a superb column the other week, said 'Hoddle is the sort of smart person that thick people like; one who isn't actually smart at all'. On Twitter, earlier today, I described him as 'what a stupid football fan thinks a clever person looks like'. Perhaps, actually, he is most dangerous of all - the idiot who thinks he is clever. This isn't too bad as long as people don't reinforce that thought.

The longer he is out of the game, the longer the words he uses in interviews, the more people seem to think we have a genius in our midst, the more the legend grows. Of course, if he weren't English he'd have been hounded out of town as a joke. Like Andre Villas-Boas was. If you are really bored compare AVB's win record at Chelsea and Spurs to any point in Hoddle's club career.

Of course, we should applaud him for his work with the Glenn Hoddle Academy. We should cherish the memory of his playing days - what a player he was. We should, if we wish to indulge in rose-tinted schmaltz, attribute more to him than he deserves for his stint at Wembley. But we shouldn't buy into this myth of him as a managerial powerhouse with ideas that will revolutionise football. Better for English football that he drones on in the studio and his sycophants in the press big him up than him being in a dressing room where he might do some real damage.

As this blog has noted before, English football hates intellectuals and hates intellectualism. That is why Harry Redknapp is viewed more fondly than, say, Benitez or Villas-Boas. There has been a skepticism around Wenger despite his obvious brilliance. Consider what those three men have won in their careers against what Redknapp has won in his. The knives come out more quickly, and are sharpened more readily, when the clever foreign boys are for the Halal butchers.

Hoddle isn't an intellectual. It is better for English football to fawn over someone who is pretending than, you know, actually embrace cleverness, deep thought and study of the game. Many will be glad to be rid of Villas-Boas. They'll be pleased to see Sherwood in post and pleased to see Hoddle's name in the frame.

All fine. But we'll keep bombing out of World Cups and the response will always be ''we need an Englishman, a proper football man in charge''. And we'll overlook our Sacchi, our Benitez, our Mourinho or our Villas-Boas because they don't fit the wrong criteria or our weird conception of what a football manager should be.


Edit - I am grateful to commenters here and on Twitter noting England were knocked out in the 2nd round and not the Quarter Final. Thank you and mea culpa.


John Stevens said...

Nice article. A few observations: Hoddle picked Beckham and Scholes; Venables had ignored Beckham for Euro 96, preferring Stone. And Argentina was in the second round, not the quarter-final. It should not be forgotten that England were poor vs Sweden and Bulgaria at the start of qualifying for Euro 2000.

I always thought that Hoddle's decision to not take Gascoigne to France was completely exposed in the Argentina game. Gascoigne may have not been first choice at that point, having been surpassed by Scholes and Beckham, but as a bench option would have been vastly superior to Lee, plus he had taken and scored two penalties in international competitive shoot-outs, something none of the midfield options selected had done. Had he come on for Anderton vs Argentina, the game would have had a different feel, much as I respect Batty for what he made of himself.

Le Tissier's finest form had passed before Hoddle managed England. Venables was culpable for his repeated omission: Peter Beardsley (then at least 32) was used from Venables' first match in 94 until the Umbro Cup in 95: Le Tissier should have started in his place in every game, particular given his form between 1993 and 1995.

Hoddle has been out of top flight management for 10 years, basically. Better managers than he have been out of the game for similar lengths of time with no call for a return. Allowing for the bung episode, why has George Graham not been rehabilitated? A vastly superior record to Hoddle.

Anonymous said...

Arsene Wenger has won nothing since the inherited defence left/retired and he had to build his own.

dearieme said...

"populace": and then please do delete this comment.