Glenn Hoddle the ‘Pride of Tottenham’ is one of the most talented individuals to have played in the English game.
Born in 1957 in Middlesex he supported Tottenham from the age of eight. His favourite player was the great forward Martin Chivers. It would so happen that it was Chivers, when scouting for the North London club, who spotted Hoddle’s talent as an 11 year old.
Hoddle trained with the club and signed as an apprentice as a 17 year old before securing a professional contract.
Hoddle was part of the team that suffered a first relegation in 27 years in 76/77. However a Hoddle inspired Tottenham bounced back at the first time of asking and were promoted.
After finding his feet in 78/79 with 35 league appearances, Hoddle transitioned into a fantastic player in the 79/80 season, 19 goals in 41 league appearances. An unbelievable return for a midfielder.
Silverware followed in 1981 with a FA Cup final win against Manchester City, which had taken a replay, and the next season Spurs defended the cup.
1987 saw another FA Cup Final visit to Wembley, but surprisingly Tottenham lost to Coventry. This was Hoddle’s last game for Tottenham with Monaco manager Wenger clinching his signature for the sum of £750,000. An incredibly low fee for a thirty year old ,when you considered his midfield sidekick Chris Waddle was transferred to France for £4.5m two seasons after.
Hoddle & Waddle
Waddle spoke highly of Hoddle –
“In training, other players used to stand and watch. His technique was exceptional. He was two-footed and if he had been blessed with pace, we’d be talking about one of the best players who ever lived.”
Hoddle together with fellow Englishman Mark Hateley integrated themselves at Monaco as first choices together with the young George Weah who would go on to become the greatest African player of all time.
Monaco won the French championship in Hoddle’s first year. ‘He is the most skilful player I have ever worked with,’ Wenger later said. ‘His control was superb and he had perfect body balance. His skill in both feet was uncanny… I couldn’t understand why he hadn’t been appreciated in England. Perhaps he was a star in the wrong period, years ahead of his time.’
Hoddle lasted three and half years in Monaco with his time being considered a success after being voted the Best Foreign Player in French football. Although his stint in France was cut short at the age of 33 with a troublesome knee injury which restricted his appearances.
Hateley, Wenger & Hoddle
This didn’t put off Chelsea who signed Hoddle on an appearances based contract. However he left without appearing, his destiny was management and his first steps were as player-manager at Swindon. He took on the job in struggling circumstances however as Swindon had been prevented from promotion to the top tier by a financial scandal. The squad was then dismantled for cash which left Hoddle with a depleted squad for his first season. But miraculously he guided them to avoid relegation.
The next season was one of consolidation but the season after Hoddle steered Swindon to the play off final, where he scored the first goal in a 4-3 win over Leicester City at Wembley.
Hoddle with the play-off final trophy
He was highly sought after and he promptly took over at Chelsea on a player-manager basis.
In his first season he took Chelsea to a Cup Final where they were humbled 4-0 by an outstanding Manchester United team, a result which gave United a first double. Further seasons followed a similar pattern where good cup runs could not be replicated in the league.
In perhaps a well timed move for Hoddle and Chelsea, he was announced as England manager in 1996. Hoddle guided England though a difficult play off group containing Italy but shocked the nation by dropping Paul Gascoigne from the final squad pre tournament. An encouraging showing at the World Cup where England went out in the last sixteen to Argentina was tempered by Hoddle utilising a faith healer Eileen Drewery within the squad at the camp.
A poor start to England’s European 1998 qualifying campaign followed and Hoddle couldn’t shake off the suspicious minds who questioned his decision to employ Drewery.
In attempting to defend his belief in Drewery and how it tied in with his new found life as a born again Christian, he offered the, controversial for some, belief that “the disabled, and others, are being punished for sins in a former life.” Hoddle defended his position and refused to resign but in the face of criticism from outraged disability campaigners, the FA terminated Hoddle’s contract,
One player reflected that one of the struggles Hoddle had was that despite being the manager, technically he was still one of the best players.
Famously, as reported by Dan Fitch of ESPN he told David Beckham at an England training session that he wasn’t good enough to pull off a free-kick routine, which Hoddle himself was perfectly able to demonstrate.
Hoddle was not out of work for long and took on the Southampton job after their manager was suspended on full pay defending himself against a case of child abuse earlier in his career. Hoddle keep the Saints in the Premier League and returned for the next season, but left towards the end of it with Southampton in a lofty position, to take on the top job at his one true love Tottenham.
His first game was a big one , an FA Cup Semi Final against arch rivals Arsenal, which Tottenham lost 2-1. The next season Spurs got to the final of the League Cup, only to surprisingly lose to Blackburn Rovers, and finished a disappointing 9th in the league after a strong start to the campaign. The next season took the same pattern, a strong start with a tail-off, with Spurs finishing 10th. For once Tottenham started the next season poorly and the lack of progress caught up with Hoddle and he was sacked by the board in September 2003.
A return to Southampton was muted but the chairman heard murmurings from the fans they did not want Hoddle to return after he had been quick to leave first time around. Hoddle took the Wolves job in December 2004 and made them a solid outfit but one far from competing for promotion, More followed the next season, solid if not spectacular . There was some crowd unrest and Hoddle left after two full seasons citing disputes on direction with the board.
A prolonged spell out of the English game followed with Hoddle setting up a coaching academy in Spain in 2008. Rumours circulated that Hoddle was returning to the English game perhaps with his beloved Tottenham on a short term basis, but he was still tied to his coaching school and didn’t want to leave it until it was self sufficient.
He did turn up in London, but at QPR as first team coach under Harry Redknapp. Following Redknapp’s resignation 6 months later Hoddle also followed him out the door at Loftus Road.
This looks to have been his last active role in football as since then he has been a pundit on BT Sport. Shockingly Hoddle suffered a heart attack while in the TV studios and required bypass surgery. Hoddle is now back in good health.
Hoddle was a bewitching footballer, both footed and could do what he wanted with the ball. Not blessed with pace but his football brain countered this. A terrific range of passing, short and long, coupled with the ability to not be hurried on the ball. A trait that is all too absent in today’s English game. The football was not a hot potato for Holddle, more a tool for him to display his artistic prowess. This was a player of genuine skill who was indulged on the Content. It’s a travesty that a midfielder with such goal scoring prowess did not become more influential for England.
As reported by Andrew Anthony of the Guardian, “when Hoddle was the most gifted ball player in England, a graffiti campaign proclaimed: ‘Hoddle is God.’ Hyperbole is nothing new in the world of sport but, all the same, that was some billing.”
Hoddle first appeared in 1980 playing and scoring in a World Cup qualifying game win against Bulgaria. 2 more goals followed in his next 4 appearances. Remarkably Hoddle only managed 5 more goals in his next 48 games. The last of which was in 1986, two years before his retirement after a 3-1 defat to USSR in Euro 1988. Hoddle had also featured prominently in the 1982 and 1996 World Cup squads.
The much quoted argument was Hoddle’s finesse did not fit in with the blood and thunder approach of the English game.
Andrew Anthony described the apathy towards Hoddle in the Guardian:
“More precisely, English football did not understand him. Although he won 53 (sic) caps for England, he never established himself in the side, never marked out a position that was his. In an era dominated by the stamina and steel of Bryan Robson, Hoddle was deemed a luxury that the national team could only occasionally afford, and rarely when it mattered.
He was accused of lacking heart, guts, balls, arsehole and all the other body parts that made up the typical English player of the Eighties. His critics beyond White Hart Lane called him a Fancy Dan. Brian Clough once said that it took ‘moral courage to play the way Hoddle does’. But Tommy Smith, the notorious Liverpool hardman, accused Hoddle of going missing when someone – Smith, for example – got stuck into him. The point of all this was made clear in the nickname that Hoddle was awarded: Glenda.”
I remember Hoddle as the showman; the man who sauntered through the Oxford United defence on the half way line in the 1987 FA Cup quarter-final, the volley against Peter Shilton, the bullet hit from miles out at Anfield, and the first time volley at White Heart Lane that flew past Manchester United’s keeper Gary Bailey.
Dickinson, M (30 January 1999). “Hoddle puts his faith in God and England”. The Times.
Anthony, A (05 October 2003). “Hoddle puts his faith in God and England”. The Times.