As the saying goes, it’s a funny old game. On February 8th, Fabio Capello mumbled his last excuse as England manager, and resigned. And it seemed so simple. Thanks for the memories Fab, welcome to the hot seat Mr Harry Redknapp.
Fast forward two short months, and the situation is about as clear as mud. The England managers position remains vacant, and whilst Redknapp still sits as the runaway favourite, his status as shoe-in is starting to look a little unsettled. His Tottenham side are in free fall with only nine points from as many games, and when coupled with last night’s humiliating 5-1 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Chelsea, some question marks are raised as to Redknapp’s England credentials.
One thing that the Spurs boss does have in his favour is a distinct lack of competition. So if not Redknapp, who? One name that may not immediately spring to mind is Glenn Hoddle.
Currently, Hoddle sits in a boat marked ‘rank outsider’. Bookmakers have him as far as 113-1 (Betfair) to become Capello’s successor, a price that sees him behind sacked Wolves boss Mick McCarthy and Leeds United caricature villain Neil Warnock.
Indeed, Hoddle has held the berth once before, between September 1996 and February 1999. His reign saw England rise sharply through the world rankings, qualify for the ’98 World Cup as top of their division in a group that included the all-conquering Italy, and play a brand of football that no manager since has been able to emulate. As England managers go, surely, on the pitch, the legendary playmaker represents a success story.
Then again. In 1999, speaking to a newspaper journalist, Hoddle claimed that disabled people were suffering for evil behaviour in a past life, a quote he believed to be taken wildly out of context. This caused uproar, even causing Prime Minister Tony Blair to express his dissatisfaction with the outburst. Barely days passed after his remark in front of the media before he was sacked.
After brief spells with Southampton, Spurs and then Wolves, Hoddle took a back step from management and set up the ‘Glenn Hoddle Academy’, which focuses on handing a second chance to British players released early from football league academies. Since leaving his post as England manager, only his time at Southampton can be described as an undoubted success, but his philosophy of playing fluent and attacking football remained throughout. Like when he was a player, Hoddle the boss respects a commitment to entertain.
Some would suggest that his reign was the most encouraging England camp of recent times. They were sent out of the ’98 World Cup on penalties by an Argentinian side containing a peaking Gabriel Batistuta, Diego Simeone, and Juan Veron. If a young David Beckham hadn’t been sent off for kicking out at Simeone, England may well have gone on to achieve a place in the quarter-finals.
In a world of ifs and buts, the suggestion that ‘the Hoddle project’ was still in its formative years is undoubted, and the fact that he never got to finish it wrangles with some sections of the England support. His win percentage sits at an impressive 60.71% (only 0.4% lesser than that of Sir Alf Ramsey), a statistic made even more formidable when compared with Kevin Keegan’s paltry 38.89%, Sven-Goran Eriksson’s 58.70% and Steve McClaren’s 50% efforts. Make no mistake about it, Hoddle’s England was a successful England.
Surely, with Stuart Pearce’s England looking wholly unimpressive during last month’s friendly against Holland, with Redknapp twiddling his thumbs over his inevitable switch from White Hart Lane, and with the Euros only a few weeks away, a snap appointment on a part-time basis is the FA’s best option. With that option likely to be an Englishman, and perhaps one not currently in a management job, they could do alot worse than search their archives for the telephone number of a Mr Glenn Hoddle.