Hoddle Just the Job

By Ridley, Ian | The Independent (London, England), February 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Hoddle Just the Job

Ridley, Ian, The Independent (London, England)

IT LOOKS as if the footballing shout of "who wants it?" is not just confined to the field. After their meeting last week, the FA's five- man committee charged with finding the next England coach dispatched their consultant, Jimmy Armfield, to determine if the public aversion to the job expressed by several of the leading candidates is genuine.

This time Armfield should not need to wear out another set of tyres, as he did in canvassing opinion before Terry Venables was appointed. Indeed, if not exactly on the FA's Lancaster Gate doorstep, the right man is probably only a tube ride away today, at Stamford Bridge, where Middlesbrough visit Chelsea.

It is not necessarily Bryan Robson, though the case for him stepping up from being Venables's assistant is tempting - if he can be prevailed upon to consider the position. A more willing and equally attractive candidate will be found in the neighbouring dug-out.

Glenn Hoddle and Bryan Robson have always been rivals, it seems, from the moment Ron Greenwood dropped Robson to give Hoddle his England debut in 1979, the Tottenham player responding with a beautifully curled goal in a 2-0 win over Bulgaria. Thereafter, Robson's muscular drive was seen as more reliable, even if his body did not always prove so, by Greenwood, and then by Bobby Robson. Although Hoddle won 53 caps, only twice did he start more than two matches in succession.

One was gritty Northerner, indispensable when fit. The other stereotype had Hoddle a sophisticated but soft-centred Southerner. It was a fallacy, as his face, contorted with commitment, often showed. "I'm very strong- willed. People don't understand that about me," he once said. "They think that with all this touch and flair, I'd have to be a bit soft. They forget I've played almost all my career in Britain where other players from the continent might say 'sod it, it's too hard to play my type of football in England'."

Though it is always unwise to choose the flavour of the month when it comes to results - Chelsea's run of one defeat in 14 matches may be just as deceptive as Middlesbrough's five consecutive defeats - Hoddle's brand of football is beginning to reap rewards.

With three at the back - Michael Duberry, suspended today, is emerging as an outstanding prospect - and John Spencer relishing the role of attacking from deep, Chelsea are becoming a progressive team, more accomplished than the limited one of recent seasons, though Hoddle coached them to an FA Cup final and European Cup-winners' Cup semi-final. The wing-backs Dan Petrescu and Terry Phelan bring a potent blend of precision and pace.

"Things have fallen into place," the Chelsea midfield player Nigel Spackman said. "A solid back line has allowed the team to flourish. I think Glenn would like David Lee to move forward more from sweeper but he is happy enough while we are not conceding goals. Before, Ruud Gullit wanted to come out so much it maybe disrupted it a bit.

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