The World Cup Diary of Glenn Hoddle, Aged 40 and Three-Quarters

Posted: June 6, 2018 in Uncategorized
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1998 World Cup Finals Marseille, France, 15th June, 1998, England 2 v Tunisia 0, England's coach Glenn Hoddle looks tense before the match

‘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.’

With those words, Glenn Hoddle consigned his time as England manager to a former life. With the wave of revulsion rising higher and higher, headlines shifting from back page to front page and even the Prime Minister adding his voice to calls for him to go, there was no way back. On 3rd February 1999, the Football Association terminated Hoddle’s contract with immediate effect.

Hoddle protested that he’d “never said them things”, but he had, and not just in conversation with The Times’ Matt Dickinson. He’d actually “said them things” before, just the previous year, in an interview with Radio Five: “I think we make mistakes when we are down here and our spirit has to come back and learn. That’s why there is an injustice in the world. Why there’s certain people born into the world with terrible physical problems,” he told presenter Brian Alexander.

That time, nobody batted an eyelid. Hoddle’s stock was soaring – he was the youngest manager of the national team in half a century, still toasting nicely in the glow of his youthful, vibrant England winning Le Tournoi ahead of France, Italy and World Champions Brazil. After the heroic draw with Italy in Rome that secured England’s qualification for France ’98, there was genuine optimism about the team’s World Cup prospects.

By the time of the Dickinson interview, that goodwill had long evaporated. A growing hunger for his removal had existed since the previous summer. He was fresh out of friends in the media and the dressing room, and results had slumped, with a poor start made to qualifying for Euro 2000. The uncomfortable truth is that ultimately, Hoddle’s comments about the disabled were simply used by his enemies as a means to get rid of him.

In reality, he’d been a dead man walking since August 1998, and the serialisation of his notorious World Cup diary.


What’s the worst that could happen?

An idea pitched by his agent, the book should have been the safest, most anodyne of projects. That it would be co-written by David Davies, the FA’s own Chief Spokesperson, only seemed to confirm that nothing controversial would escape onto the page. Yet what should have been the blandest of literary stews turned out to be an incendiary potboiler. Members of Hoddle’s squad were openly criticised, confidences were betrayed, and the full extent of faith healer Eileen Drewery’s influence and the role of controversial supplements such as creatine in the Hoddle camp was revealed.

Hoddle’s voice rings out from the tome – even if it is frequently indistinguishable from that of Alan Partridge, from his love of M People to his deigning to explain to us mere mortals how prayers really work. It is a text that lays bare the elements of the gathering storm that would ultimately claim him – his atrocious man management, his antagonising of the press and his determination to push his beliefs on others.


Mr Motivator

It is the most oft-cited criticism of Hoddle’s managerial career. For all the plaudits rightly garnered as a tactician, he is emphatically not a people person. The World Cup would offer a series of examples. Gareth Southgate felt the manager ‘crucified’ him when he got injured after the first group game. When Teddy Sheringham was photographed shortly before the tournament drinking in a Portuguese bar until 6am, Hoddle, rather than keeping any discipline in-house, forced him to make a public apology. Sheringham, who idolised Hoddle as a boy, would later air his own forthright opinion of the England manager…

Graeme Le Saux believed Hoddle offered little support when he was made a scapegoat for Romania’s winner in England’s Group G defeat. ‘Hoddle didn’t do anything to reassure me, because he wasn’t that type’, he recalled in his book Left Field. In his diary, Hoddle cheerfully threw him under the bus for Romania’s first and Argentina’s second goals as well.

Perhaps most astonishing is the way Hoddle’s World Cup diary pulls no punches in its assessment of those players who didn’t make the squad. Matthew Le Tissier all but has the door closed on his international career there and then. ‘We need more from him physically and mentally,’ claims Hoddle, who sniffs that the player’s hat trick for England B came only against ‘a not very good Russian side’. Penny for Chris Sutton’s thoughts on that one.

Stuart Pearce, despite his 78 caps, has ‘some chinks in his game defensively’. Hoddle also reprises his famous verdict on Andy Cole, who ‘needs three or four opportunities in front of goal before he takes one’.

The two clearest examples of Hoddle’s disconnect with his players, however, were the situations with Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham.


Gazza does not love lamp

As he prepared to whittle his provisional World Cup squad down to the final 23, Hoddle was awash with pride at how clever his plan was. ‘We had planned decision day down to the last detail,’ he brags in the diary. At the squad’s training camp in La Manga, each player would learn their fate in an allotted five-minute private meeting in the manager’s hotel room at the end of the trip. The unlucky six who didn’t make it would then be spirited away immediately on a plane of shame back to England, before word got out to the media.

Meticulously planned it might have been, but it was a rotten idea. The effect it had was to heighten the tension and sense of dread, like some primitive football version of that bit on the X Factor where Simon Cowell whisks the contestants away to one of his exotic tax havens before telling them they can’t sing. Players had little to do but kick their heels and feel the knot in their stomachs tighten as their appointment time approached.

For the unsuccessful sextet, Hoddle’s approach made the rejection all the more painful. Gary Neville (who made the cut) described trying to console his distraught brother (who didn’t) as his worst moment in football. Tony Adams, who also made it, called the process ‘excruciating’.

Nobody took the news worse than Gascoigne. The big selling point of The Sun’s serialisation of the diary was the lurid detail of Gazza’s reaction. Having spent the day drinking away his nerves – not even being thrown in the pool and having coffee forced down him by Seaman and Shearer was enough to sober him up – he arrived in Hoddle’s room barefoot and worse for wear. On learning his World Cup dream was over, he ranted tearfully, before volleying a chair in a rage. And then, according to Glenn Hoddle: My 1998 World Cup Story:

‘I thought he was going to hit me. There was a lamp to my left, to his right, and he just punched it. The glass shattered all over the room.’

The decision not to take Gazza was 100% correct. His life was spiralling out of control as he struggled to come to terms with the end of his marriage. He was frequently snapped falling out of nightclubs and famously photographed in a London kebab house with celebrity mates Chris Evans and Rod Stewart.


Rod was looking particularly rough after this session.

With his fitness failing him, he lost his place at Rangers, and a move to Championship Middlesbrough achieved little more than the birth of a terrifying contest with Paul Merson to establish who could drink the most wine and take the most sleeping pills without keeling over. He’d been heavy-legged and below par in the pre-tournament friendlies and kept the team bus waiting on more than one occasion. Even Gascoigne, in time, would admit it was the right decision.

What rankled among the players was not just that Hoddle, a man who’d preached secrecy at all costs, at all times, had chosen to publicly disclose the undignified details of the end of Gascoigne’s international career, but that he himself had created the conditions for the meltdown. His stupid plan had cranked the tension all the way up to eleven.

Even David Davies concurred in his own book, FA Confidential. ‘I knew for sure we had to find a better way of telling our players their World Cup dreams were over,’ he recalls. ‘La Manga built up the pressure to such a pitch that Gazza just exploded’. Shockingly, not even the soothing background tones of Kenny G could calm the situation.

Hoddle was oblivious, noting in his diary that the following day’s training session was ‘really bubbly’. David Beckham said it was the worst session he could remember. Still, he’d have his own issues with the manager…


What to do about David

Beckham comes in for criticism throughout Hoddle’s diary. There’s heavy foreshadowing when the manager talks of the importance of Beckham learning not to react to opposition wind-up tactics after a silly booking in Le Tournoi. Later, Hoddle claims Beckham’s form dipped towards the end of the season, that he’s no better a crosser of the ball than Darren Anderton, and that he lacks focus and sharpness. Beckham is accused of being distant and having ‘a vagueness about him, on and off the pitch’, in a couple of paragraphs that sail close to character assassination.

Having started all the qualifiers, Beckham was suddenly dropped for the tournament proper. Hoddle then made him appear at a press conference while still reeling from the news, to the molten fury of the not-quite-yet Sir Alex Ferguson: ‘Obliging an emotionally devastated 23-year-old to face a mass interview, during which he was expected to go over the details of his disappointment…struck me as an example of bad human relations,’ he opined in Managing My Life.


Ferguson wrote the book on ‘human relations’ of course

Beckham was humiliated again shortly before the fateful Argentina clash, this time in training. Hoddle had he and Paul Scholes working on an elaborate free kick routine that would see the latter flick the ball up for Beckham to volley over the wall. The two couldn’t master it. Picking up the ball, Hoddle turned to them and told them: “you’re obviously not good enough to do that one. We’ll have to leave it out.” The duo were left seething.

Neville maintains that the public criticism – and the insult to injury of being made to attend the press conference when still raw from being dropped – raised the blood of the young midfielder. Both he and Le Saux make a connection between Hoddle’s treatment of Beckham and Beckham’s red card in St. Etienne.


Hard Press

The relationship between players and manager was positively sunny compared to that between Hoddle and the press, however. As was so often the case with Glenn, he started with the best of intentions. Whereas his predecessor had certain ‘pet’ journalists to whom he would drip-feed information, Hoddle wanted a more egalitarian system, with no favourites. Yet his smartest-guy-in-the-room shtick quickly began to grate on the Fourth Estate. So guarded was Hoddle over team selection and tactics that he’d deliberately provide false information, even asking certain players, such as Southgate, to exaggerate the severity of knocks and niggles to plant seeds of doubt about the line-up. The idea was to outfox the opposition, but journalists who took the bait, collateral damage in these little games, were made to look foolish. They didn’t forget.

It hardly helped that Hoddle was extraordinarily thin-skinned, something his diary makes comically clear. Every single slight and critique is recalled and recounted, be it the roasting in print after the friendly defeat to Chile in February ’98, the reporter who questions why he hasn’t bothered scouting Tunisia, or Moroccan fans’ displeasure that the England team doesn’t stay overnight following another friendly in Casablanca. Rod Stewart and Chris Evans are put in their place (‘they just wouldn’t understand’) as is his old Diamond Lights partner. Most bizarre of all is a spat with Uri Geller, whose selective memory over a past meeting with Hoddle leads to the manager ‘calling in the lawyers. Enough said’.

The mutual distrust and antagonism between Hoddle and the press would fester. After a friendly in Switzerland, he snapped and told the assembled journalists he “couldn’t give two monkeys” what they thought. He eventually stopped them from flying on the team plane altogether. He moved his Berkshire-based press conferences from their traditional lunchtime slot to coincide with the M25 rush hour, making it more difficult for reporters to meet deadlines. This was all just about tolerated during the years of relative boom, but the second results began to slip, they turned on him wholesale, viciously and vociferously.


Come On, Eileen

Surprisingly and atypically, Hoddle is eloquent in the book’s discussion of Drewery. The importance and influence the England manager afforded a faith healer, with no sporting qualifications whatsoever, made him an easy target, and he admittedly did neither himself nor Drewery any favours by casually comparing her to Jesus – ‘a normal, run-of-the-mill guy who had a genuine gift, like Eileen has got’.

Drewery didn’t exactly aid her own cause as she discovered a taste for the limelight, at one point claiming that she’d put a forcefield around the Italian goal at the Olimpico to prevent Ian Wright scoring, lest it kick off a riot.

In the diary however, Hoddle rewinds to his days as a teenage prodigy at Spurs and his first meeting with Drewery, mother of his then-girlfriend. Afflicted with a hamstring problem that wasn’t clearing up, he was reluctant to allow her to lay her hands on the affected area, but she pledged to try ‘distance healing’ and the next day Hoddle found the pain had gone. Whatever the truth, it’s not hard to see why a superstitious young sportsman, terrified he might have the one thing he loves to do taken away from him, might buy into ‘the gift’ and want to share it with others.

It’s also true that there were members of the squad who appreciated Drewery. Darren Anderton, understandably, given his injury problems, spent a lot of time with her. Paul Merson was an unlikely convert. Southgate and Le Saux, two of the more level-headed members of the group, both felt that talking to her helped them, as a kind of rustic form of sports psychology practices used so widely today.

The problem was that Hoddle went too far in pushing Drewery on the team. He insists in the diary that he never pressured anyone to visit her, but later muddies the waters by saying he wanted every player to see her before they left for France. Certainly, a number of players did feel under pressure. Le Saux suggests in Left Field that ‘the inference in the invitation was clear…if you didn’t go you felt as if you were questioning the manager, and that he knew you were questioning him.’

It’s also been suggested that non-believers were marginalised. The most famous example is Ray Parlour, who never featured under Hoddle again after reportedly asking for a short back and sides when Drewery laid her hands on his shoulders. Steve McManaman asked her who was going to win the 3:15 at Wincanton. He never started a competitive game under Hoddle after Rome.


Vicar’s Vase came in at 6/1, if you’re interested.

Robbie Fowler put the telly on during his session and also felt his international career suffered as a result of his scepticism, though it wasn’t all bad for the Liverpool striker: ‘She said I had two demons inside me,’ he says in his autobiography. ‘Which wasn’t too bad because Gazza had five. I was happy with that.’

It’s easy to forget, of course, that Hoddle was only 40 when he took England to France – younger than Peter Shilton was as a player at Italia ’90. It’s an incredibly young age to be taking on ‘the impossible job’. Reading Hoddle’s World Cup Story, however, it’s not difficult to see why he rubbed so many up the wrong way. By the closing chapter he insists he couldn’t have done anything more during the tournament, and while he’s happy for France and the victorious Aime Jacquet, ‘I’ll always believe it should have been me’.

Nothing could possibly be considered his fault. Think Michael Owen should’ve started sooner? Nonsense, apparently he’d never have made the impact he did if Hoddle hadn’t (troubling image klaxon) ‘broken him in gradually’. Think England should’ve beaten Romania, thus topping the group and avoiding Argentina? Wrong again; that was just down to ‘individual errors’ (cheers, Graeme) and besides, he’d ‘had a bad feeling’ about that game anyway. It was pre-ordained!

If they’d had 11 men on the pitch, Hoddle insists, they’d have not just beaten Argentina, but won the whole bloody show! That was an assertion, Beckham felt, which ‘fed the frenzy’ that saw him hung in effigy that summer. It was also preposterous. England with 11 men couldn’t beat Romania, the idea that they’d have seen off Argentina, a strong Dutch team, Brazil and France to lift the trophy is more fanciful than anything Drewery ever came out with.



Davies first caught wind of the book’s likely impact when The Sun’s Steve Howard phoned him to tell him, ominously, that ‘I’ve finally read an interesting book about football’.

It’s hard to believe that neither he nor Hoddle (nor the FA, who didn’t read the transcript before it was published) considered how difficult this would make life for the England manager. The press would glean the full extent of Hoddle’s contempt for them, while the players were horrified at the confidences broken, in particular the lip-splitting detail of Gascoigne’s breakdown in La Manga. Davies, with hindsight, would rate the book the biggest mistake of his entire career.

It was in this context that England’s poor start to Euro 2000 qualifying was viewed, as England were held by a poor Bulgaria at Wembley before losing, amid much glee in the press box, in Sweden. ‘Quit Now Hod’ and ‘We’ve Hod Enough’, screamed two of the kinder headlines. It seemed clear he’d lost the dressing room. ‘His authority had been fatally undermined by his diary,’ suggests Le Saux. ‘People start to withdraw…I didn’t quite believe in him anymore.’

After an unconvincing win over Luxembourg there were reports of a bust-up between Hoddle and Shearer, and the existence of a dressing room tape recording of the players mocking their manager, even if all concerned strenuously denied it.

Hoddle was already teetering on the brink when he spoke to Dickinson.

Davies was one of the men tasked with taking the axe to his co-author, but first he offered him one last chance to save himself: ‘No 1: make an apology. No 2: Hold a news conference. No 3: Agree that non-football statements are off-limits. No 4: Remove Eileen Drewery.’ He stopped talking. Both men knew Hoddle wouldn’t go for that. It was over.

In the grand tradition of English football, nobody learned anything from the whole sorry mess. Hoddle was soon back in management, pissing off players left, right and centre. Davies seemed to emerge from each fresh FA scandal with his position somehow stronger, like a polyester Littlefinger, chaos his ladder. And the FA’s chief criteria for appointing an England manager remained that he had to be the complete polar opposite of the last poor sod, a trend that continues to this day.

The punchline, of course, is that today, Hoddle’s tenure has been mysteriously reappraised as a triumph of tactical acumen, and whenever there’s a vacancy in the England dugout his name invariably crops up.

What have any of us – not least the man himself – done to deserve that, in this life or any of the previous ones?

  1. […] The World Cup Diary of Glenn Hoddle, Aged 40 and Three-Quarters […]

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