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I've lost my faith in Hod.

OUR team are heroes, but the manager isn't! That's my finding on France '98. And it may be the verdict of you all.

After two years of Glenn Hoddle, we are no nearer the second World Cup that distinguishes true football champions from mere contenders.

There's only one prize for which Hoddleland might qualify.

It's the Bureaucracy Bowl, which should be ours for crossing the Channel with more administrators, track-suited odd-bods, medicos and FA councillors than we have players.

I have the full list before me and it comes to 23. One for each of the lads, plus a spare hand who may be held in reserve to run round obtaining autographs for visiting VIPs.

Eileen Drewery (faith healer) is at No 11 on my list, one above the kit manager. Don't look to me for a nasty crack at Mrs Drewery. For those who share Hoddle's beliefs, there are occasionally undoubted benefits from the laying on of Eileen's hands.

But for the majority - the cynical, yet broadly tolerant, rest of us - a World Cup of P4 W2 D1 L1 means the faith most in need of healing is the one we once had in Hoddle.

Mine began springing leaks with his pre-tournament results. The Wembley defeat by Chile and the draws with chopping-blocks Switzerland, Saudi Arabia and Belgium.

Actually, the Belgian result in Casablanca was a 4-3 defeat on penalties and a warning if ever there was one. But it went unheeded.

Even after David Batty missed against Argentina and revealed there had been no penalty practice throughout England's weeks in Spain and Brittany, Hoddle brushed aside this vital omission. Practising was futile, he said, because it was impossible to replicate the tensions of a shoot-out.

If next week's Open contenders at Royal Birkdale followed that loony logic, not one of them would use the practice green.

So we had no daily shoot-outs at perhaps a tenner a head (wouldn't that have created atmosphere?) But we had teams showing nine changes a match in the run-up.

What finally swayed me towards believing "Hoddle must go" was the substitution of David Beckham for Paul Ince in the 33rd minute against Romania in Toulouse.

There could be no quibbling about the actual change. Georghe Hagi, the ageing Maradona of the Carpathians but in this case the Dracula, had drawn blood from Ince's ankle.

Someone had to come on, especially as Romania kept stringing together up to 17 consecutive passes.

But it seemed to take forever and I couldn't understand why until Hoddle was seen on the dug-out bench, flourishing sheets of paper and addressing Beckham as though he were an actor thought liable to forget his lines.

I have never seen a manager drilling a sub with diagrams when all that's needed is what Bill Shankly once said to Kevin Keegan: "Go and drop hand grenades all over the pitch!"

If Hoddle's so keen on sketches, he ought to draw something solid to replace the half-time wall that damaged England's chances against Argentina as gravely as Beckham's dismissal.

Ince, rarely difficult to lure into conflict, jostled and wrangled with Roberto Ayala. This distracted Shearer, Beckham, Anderton and Scholes.

So Javier Zanetti slinked in to score.

A final view on Hoddle? I've heard him called stubborn, arrogant, devious, secretive, devout and a genius.

But I think he might be nuts!
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Langley, Mike
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 5, 1998
Words:558
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