History Of A Very English Job (Part Two)

As Roy Hodgson prepares for his first game in charge of England, Philip Cornwall continues his history of his predecessors and takes in sex and reincarnation...

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In part two (part one is here) of his analysis of the falls of Roy Hodgson's predecessors, Philip Cornwall looks at Glenn Hoddle's bad karma, Sven-Goran Eriksson's irrelevant sex life and Fabio Capello's last stand over John Terry...

Hod almighty
If Terry Venables was England's Icarus, perishing by flying too close to the Sun, then Glenn Hoddle was our religious sacrifice, despite a promising start that meant his views on reincarnation were ignored until it suited the papers to use them as a cross on which he could be crucified.

Unlike Taylor, who was not officially announced until after the 1990 semi-final, Hoddle was named in advance of the run to the last four of Euro 96. Despite the pressure of taking over a side that had promoted understandable optimism and an early stumble, his star shone more brightly after appointment than before. England faced a stiff World Cup draw thanks to Taylor's USA 94 qualification failure, but Hoddle recovered from home defeat to Italy to clinch the group and even won the round-robin Tournoi de France in 1997, with victories against the hosts and Italy offset belatedly by an irrelevant defeat to Brazil. England won every qualifier bar the two against Italy; their coach, Cesare Maldini, miscalculated and a thoroughly deserved goalless draw in Rome pushed the hosts into the play-offs while a Hoddle huddle danced around the Stadio Olimpico.

The more successful Hoddle was, the more his views were sought and his methods discussed. There was Eileen Drewery, the faith healer. And there was reincarnation. He talked about both in the build-up to the 1998 World Cup and, while the odd eyebrow was raised, no one suggested his religious views should affect his suitability for the job. What rumblings there were surrounded Drewery's role with the squad and questionable, moralistic handling of Paul Gascoigne, Teddy Sheringham and David Beckham.

Gascoigne went spare when told his fitness problems made him surplus to requirements; Sheringham had to deliver a stilted public apology after being photographed beer in hand; and Beckham - whose girlfriend was shortly to be playing a concert in Brooklyn and discover she was pregnant - was dropped from the opening match at the finals having been the only ever-present in qualifying. Hoddle felt he wasn't sufficiently focused.

England laboured in the heat of Marseille to beat Tunisia, Paul Scholes's goal adding late gloss to the 2-0 scoreline. We trailed against Romania until Michael Owen's intervention as substitute, before Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux and Dan Petrescu combined for Romania's winner. A win was needed against Colombia and it came with Beckham, restored to the starting line-up, scoring his first international goal (and his last until he was captain). As we were second in the group, though, we had to face Argentina next.

Hoddle survived - reputation intact - a last-16 exit after a wondrous night in St. Etienne, a 2-2 draw featuring Michael Owen's famous goal and Beckham's famous selfish idiocy that led to a red card for retaliation. Yet the next January the manager was gone, after an interview with the Times that paradoxically was part of a strategy to improve his standing in the media.

Catholics adhere to the doctrine of transubstantiation, that at communion the bread and the wine are turned in a substantial way into the body and blood of Christ; it is easy to imagine an inarticulate Catholic manager making as big a mess of explaining that to a non-Christian society as Hoddle did of his Hindu-influenced views on karma and reincarnation, which came across as an attack on disabled people rather than as a motivation for good works and living a respectful life.

There was more to his exit than that. The media had been focused for the 24 hours after the 1998 World Cup exit on Beckham's red card; while they did a quick-step to curry favour with the Spice Boy and his club, they could not shift blame to Hoddle. However, they were unhappy with him for using them to spread disinformation to the opposition about players' fitness.

Disastrously, he had also refused to answer questions about events at the World Cup on grounds of privacy - for instance regarding Gascoigne's meltdown - then revealed all in a book ghost-written by the FA's David Davies. Even the paper that serialised the diary, The Sun, turned on the authors mid-extract.

Players were unhappy at the revelations, too. Coincidence or not, a bad-tempered defeat in Sweden in which Paul Ince was sent off followed in September 1998 and Roy Hodgson, manager of Blackburn, was made odds-on to be Hoddle's successor. The next month there was a home draw with a poor Bulgaria and a chaotic victory in Luxembourg, in which David Seaman faced a (missed) penalty at 0-0. Euro 2000 qualification was in serious doubt.

Yet in the November, albeit in a friendly, things started to look up. The victory against the Czech Republic was enjoyable and deserved, and the players seemed to have got over whatever animus they had against Hoddle. The media, though, had turned decisively on a manager who had offended them and, when the opportunity presented by the Times interview in January 1999 appeared, the fatal attack was launched.

Luck came into it. The Times's news section needed something for its front page on a quiet Saturday and the choicest quotes were lifted out of the context of a long interview mainly of interest to football fans. But while Hoddle's results had worsened and his questionable man-management surely played a part, the excuse for his dismissal was unique. None of the journalists calling for his head would have approved of a similar witch-hunt in their profession.

Hoddle, whose denial consisted of "I never said them things", was done in by his inarticulacy and the change in media mood, albeit against a background of a downturn in results. Be careful what you think, Roy.

Faria folly
Kevin Keegan was anointed by the media every bit as much as Redknapp, but sadly the press were successful in 1999. His demise was a case of death by drowning.

After scraping into and slumping out of Euro 2000, a home defeat to Germany in a World Cup qualifier the following October led Keegan to conclude, correctly, that he had been out of his depth. Enter Sven-Goran Eriksson, who succumbed to a crime passionelle.

The media's responsibility for the Keegan debacle - they had created the vacancy by engineering the dismissal of Hoddle for non-football reasons and steamrollered a weakened FA into accepting their choice of replacement - was not addressed. Instead, outrage at the Swede's appointment was the order of the day for many, most famously Jeff Powell, who blamed the FA for Terry Venables walking away in 1996 rather than holding the man himself responsible.

The distrust never truly abated, present even in grudging praise after the 5-1 in Munich. Eriksson took over a team with one decent point - away against the group's third-ranked team, Finland - from two matches, an unpromising position. Sticking with Beckham - a surprise choice as captain for a friendly by caretaker Peter Taylor - did not endear him to those suspicious of the Spice Boy but in fact it proved the making of the man, as he finally started scoring regularly for his country.

By the end of Eriksson's first season a trio of wins, at home to Finland and away to Albania and Greece, meant England travelled to Germany with second almost secured. The game in Munich was a match to nothing: Eriksson could send out a team to attack and that they did, overcoming the early concession of a goal and running riot.

It wound up a damn close-run thing at Old Trafford against Greece but those were the only points Eriksson dropped in his six games that campaign. In fact, in two and three-quarter sets of qualifiers, he drew four games and lost one, conceding 11 points. Between them, Hoddle and Keegan had dropped the same number of points in struggling to the Euro 2000 play-offs and Steve McClaren would surrender 13 in not reaching Euro 2008.

Astonishingly, the outcome of Eriksson's first World Cup, for which we should have been grateful just for qualification, was held against him.

England were given an awful draw for the finals: Sweden, Argentina and Nigeria. Despite a laboured opening game against Sven's homeland, they came through it, beating Argentina with some luck but no mean skill and resilience after the second goal would not come, then thumped Denmark out of sight in the first half of the last-16 game: 3-0, even Heskey scored. This was achieved without Gary Neville or Steven Gerrard, through injury, and with a patched-up Beckham and Owen.

The captain did jump out of a crucial tackle, wrongly believing the ball was headed out of play against Brazil, who promptly equalised just before the break in the quarter-final. Owen, who had earlier maintained his record of scoring in every England knock-out game he played, could not last the distance. The duo were vital to what success England did enjoy in Japan, yet Eriksson - already down to fielding reserves such as Danny Mills and Nicky Butt - would later be criticised for using his star pair.

Greater revisionism, based on what happened to the career of Kieron Dyer and journalists' imaginings that a callow Joe Cole could have delivered on that day a performance he never managed at his peak, would follow. Also following was - though Keegan had shown the limitations of manager-motivators - criticism of a lack of passion in the half-time team talk or on the touchline.

Shortly after the World Cup, though, came news that Eriksson lacked a passion deficit: he had had a brief fling with Ulrika Jonsson. This revelation has been in the news this week, with Jeremy Paxman's evidence at the Leveson inquiry regarding Piers Morgan's explanation of how to hack a phone.

This, of course, had nothing to do with Eriksson's ability to do his job. Nor did his subsequent liaison with Faria Alam, an FA secretary, revealed after Euro 2004. That led to shambles in Soho Square when it emerged that the chief executive, Mark Palios, had also had an affair with Alam and that the head of media, Colin Gibson, was willing to sell out Eriksson to the media to protect Palios. But the initial story, published by the now-closed News of the World, was utterly worthless and the only scandal lay in the attempt to ditch the manager. As Eriksson famously and accurately, if confusingly, said: "This is nonsense." It was not a denial, it was a statement of fact regarding an almighty ado about less than nothing.

Only Nancy Dell'Olio had any claim to feel betrayed. When he was approached about other jobs Eriksson was again accused of unfaithfulness, often by journalists who have not hesitated to move from one publication to another to further their careers and have no problem embracing hypocrisy. Not even the News of the World's fake sheikh could extract anything genuinely shocking from the Swede.

Under Eriksson, we won three qualifying groups in succession - a unique feat for the national team - and emerged from the group stage at each subsequent tournament - again a unique feat. Mistakes were made - inevitably - but no credit was given, except erroneously to others. Luiz Felipe Scolari, who led Brazil to the 2002 World Cup then moved to the Portugal team, beat Eriksson in all three quarter-finals, but only once in normal play and all three times with better-acclimatised sides. The Brazilian's game-changing tactical masterstroke in 2004, as his Portuguese hosts laboured against England's superb start, was to break (through mind power) one of Wayne Rooney's metatarsals, and two years later his side were the ones unable to score against ten men after something else inside Rooney snapped.

By then we knew Eriksson was going. He was being paid off two years early. Brian Barwick, the new man at the FA, disposed of the man whose affair had set off the chain reaction that led to his predecessor's demise. Performances at the 2006 World Cup - until the ten men shone against Portugal - were largely disappointing. This time gambles on the fitness of Owen, especially, and Beckham did not come off. But even then England were not as bad as they had been before the Swede - Euro 2000 - and if you wanted proof that the job was not as easy as Eriksson made it seem, you needed only to look at what happened next.

Torn apart over Terry
In the spring of 2006 it seemed, fleetingly, that Sven-Goran Eriksson would be replaced by Luiz Felipe Scolari. The Brazilian came to England eventually - and briefly - but was persuaded that the national team were not worth the media circus. The result was promotion for Steve McClaren and an era of error.

It is disturbing to think that one more point would have sufficed to take his team to Euro 2008, Russia demonstrating comparable ineptitude. As it was, a vacancy arose in November 2007 and was soon filled.

It is noticeable that, while the shortcomings of Eriksson or Fabio Capello are cited as prosecuting evidence against having a foreign manager, the greater failures under Keegan and McClaren are cited only against the individuals concerned. Still, that is not why Capello left.

There is no need to rehearse the details of such recent history but a few points are worth making. First, that events in South Africa and in subsequent games at Wembley show that the Italian was right to diagnose a psychological weakness as key to England's failings, even if he proved unable to fix it. Second, that it was right to give him another chance, not least because he had not caused the underlying problems and perhaps had additional insights gained from experience that it would have been foolish to have tossed away.

Third, his commitment to England extended to trashing his own reputation in front of UEFA in December, arguing in mitigation for the red card that he had been wrong to claim before the match in Montenegro that Wayne Rooney was unaffected by off-field stories.

And fourth, that such a commitment makes it all the stranger that Capello would walk away from the job over a clash of principles.

Anyone analysing the FA's handling of the John Terry case should acknowledge, whatever their own views, that David Bernstein and co would be roundly criticised whatever action they took. Terry denies all wrongdoing in the matter, but the FA were attacked for leaving him as captain when he was charged with a racially aggravated public order offence and are accused of a fudge now by those who believe he should not be in the squad; by the same token there are those, in large number but not exclusively Chelsea fans, who believe he should still have the armband. I wonder how many of those who wish he was out the squad would feel they should suffer loss of office before an accusation they denied had come to court; and how many of those who trumpet 'innocent until proven guilty' believe everyone on remand should be freed forthwith.

Perhaps Capello feels that given the commitment he had shown, any decision should have been in his hands, or else he took extraordinarily gross offence at the FA informing rather than consulting him. Perhaps he cannot see beyond the playing of the game. Perhaps he felt he had erred in sacking Terry in 2010 - something suggested by the reappointment - and did not want to stand him down again. Perhaps a peculiarly Italian view of the judicial process, from a supporter of Silvio Berlusconi even in the midst of the bunga bunga trial, played a part.

Whatever the reason, no one can dispute that once again an England manager had departed before his natural time for reasons beyond the team's results.

Roy Hodgson is a widely travelled, broadly educated man, with a wealth of experience of football. But as he faces up to his wide array of tasks on the pitch he should perhaps pause and consider how many of his predecessors have become undone through events lacking a direct connection to the actions of 22 men kicking a ball around a park.

Philip Cornwall

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