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RUTHLESS HOD DUMPS GAZZA; Unfit star in tears as England coach kicks him out of World Cup.

PAUL GASCOIGNE broke down in tears after he was ruthlessly axed by Glenn Hoddle last night.

Hoddle's decision to shatter Gazza's World Cup dream is the most sensational gamble of his two-year reign as England boss.

Hoddle broke the news to a stunned Gazza in a one-to-one meeting immediately after the player returned from a game of golf with his team-mates yesterday.

The midfield star has been dumped because of a lack of fitness and poor form - and not because of a specific injury.

Gascoigne took the news badly. He said: "This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me in football. I just can't believe it." He then started arguing with Hoddle.

Last night Gascoigne flew home on a private jet along with the five other players dropped from the World Cup squad - Dion Dublin, Ian Walker, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt and Andy Hinchcliffe.

Hoddle faces a grilling from the media today to explain his amazing decision.

He also faces a backlash from shocked England fans. The Mirror switchboard was jammed with callers last night, angry that Gazza had been axed from France '98.

The bombshell news filtered out early last night at England's plush training camp on the coast of south-eastern Spain.

Shocked and stunned as the journalists were, no-one would have been more rocked to the core than Gascoigne himself.

Only a fortnight ago he was insisting he had plenty of time to get in shape for the tournament - which starts in nine days - even though Hoddle described him as being "only 60 per cent match fit".

Gazza had been hammered by the England chief for going out boozing with his celebrity pals, Chris Evans and Rod Stewart, only days before the squad were gathering for the final warm-up trip.

Hoddle's shock axing has echoes of Sir Alf Ramsey in 1966. He shocked the nation by dropping star striker Jimmy Greaves in favour of Geoff Hurst in the latter stages of the World Cup.

The other five axed players were each told individually by Hoddle that they were missing out in private meetings.

Gazza had assumed his creative talents would secure him a place in the final 22 without a second thought - especially as England had been crying out for play-making talent in recent matches.

But Hoddle has spent weeks assessing Gazza's progress and decided after he came off early in Friday's defeat by Belgium that Gascoigne simply was not in the right shape and was not playing well enough to be included.

Hoddle must now prepare

himself for a tidal wave of headlines, comment and sheer astonishment at one of the most amazing developments in English football for many years.

But even before the surprise dumping of Chris Sutton, he had proved he was a man prepared to take big gambles on the biggest stage of all when he controversially included Matt Le Tissier of Southampton in the home qualifying match against Italy in February last year. Hoddle took a hail of flak when the move went wrong and England were beaten 1-0. Le Tissier felt the hard edge of Hoddle's ambition and stiff resolve when he was called into a B team to play Russia in April, scored a hat-trick and was then promptly excluded from the final party of 30 players who made the trip here.

Former Tottenham and Monaco star Hoddle, who learned the managerial trade at Swindon before moving on to Chelsea and then becoming England's youngest manager at 38 two years ago, is well used to handling controversial issues. He has taken a firm line and proved he is unafraid of criticism by drafting faith healer Eileen Drewery into the England set-up in the face of massive criticism and ridicule.

And he knows the axing of Gazza could come back to haunt him in a massive way if England flop in France.

Gascoigne's exclusion allowed Hoddle to spring the surprise of naming both Liverpool's Steve McManaman and Gazza's Middlesbrough team-mate Paul Merson in his squad, which will return home this afternoon. It was felt there was a competition between those two for a creative role alongside Gazza. There is another shock because Spurs striker Les Ferdinand has made it in ahead of Coventry's versatile Dion Dublin, who was thought to have secured a place because he can play both up front and at centre half.

Instead, West Ham teenager Rio Ferdinand, the player described by many as the new Bobby Moore, is in - offering Hoddle a touch of passing skill lacking among his more senior defenders.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Dillon, John
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 1, 1998
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