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John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at some of football's pundits and commentators and try to pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. This week it's the Diamond Lights hit-maker, Glenn Hoddle...
1980s pop career suggested a man with a fast-and-loose approach to what constitutes acceptable menswear but, then again, those were the 80s and everyone looked like a tool. Nowadays has filled out significantly, and favours a very strangely cut, heavy sort of suit that makes him look square in shape. Wednesday saw him sporting a solid pinstripe affair with a not-quite matching shirt and tie. Not for Glenn the sharp, Italian suits of Ruud or Souey. This looked like it was from Man At C&A. In 1975. If you want the Glenn Hoddle hairstyle, you can easily give yourself the look with a pair of garden shears and a can-do attitude. We feel, even now, he mourns the passing of Miami Vice-style fashions.
Keen on talking about formations, as if conveying the mysteries of the ages, with a deep frown across his brow in the manner of a man thinking up something really, really difficult.
Strengths and weaknesses
Forthright, not afraid to disagree with a fellow panellist, has experienced the horror of managing England and somehow survived it, just about. A truly, truly wonderful footballer who, in the era of the oops-there-goes-one-of-my-bollocks, shorty-short-shorts, was actually very cool.
Sadly, there's not an ounce of that cool in his punditry. Never had a great voice, and increasingly adopts a wheedling, peeved sort of tone as he makes a point. Seems genuinely upset about poor play or managerial decisions: for instance Wednesday night's assessment that "Mancini got it absolutely wrong", the tone of which suggested that Glenn felt Mancini had chosen the XI he did as a personal attack on Glenn. His verdicts are often delivered with the pained grimace of a man troubled by internal haemorrhoids; an expression which makes the viewer look on in shared discomfort.
Seems unaware that he is talking in front of cameras, chatting away with Souey and Ruud and Jeff or whoever with moderate politeness but no particular engagement, unless a disagreement breaks out. No sense whatsoever that he has prepared for, or is giving, a performance. This contrasts so much to his playing days when he clearly saw himself as an entertainer, as the man whose brilliance would colour even the wettest, coldest, greyest early 80s afternoon.
Overall effect is a bit like meeting a not especially well-liked uncle at a family funeral, and going through the motions of conversation before finding him getting weirdly angry about the route you took after turning off the ring road.
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
It's coming up for ten years since Glenn last took a managerial posting, at Wolves in late 2004. Are his methods and beliefs still in vogue, has he changed them, who knows? His opinions about matches and formations always seem adequate to us, without really offering anything special. Yet somehow, we always think he will say something interesting. His genius vision as a footballer cannot have evaporated now he is retired. Maybe we're living in vain hope but we feel he should be really quite good at this.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Doesn't seem to have any discernible affection for anyone and shows no inclination to grab a man's thigh in the alpha male joshing mode.
Walking an unsteady line between educated football aesthete and grumpy old man, Glenn comes over as a bit of a cold fish. Can't imagine him being brilliant value on the golf course, unless you wanted someone to get really upset about an underdone sirloin steak in the clubhouse afterwards.
Glenn isn't so much an over-user of phrases but a mangler of them. Wednesday night saw him attempt creative interpretations of stock expressions: "They should have took them to the sword" and "They didn't have to dictate. They were given the dictation of the play," both of which we think are improvements on the original. Loves to put a verb in the wrong place and deploys a maverick use of tenses in his speech. Most likely of any pundit to say something like, "thems is the things what you need to do." As ever, English football is just not willing to give a creative linguist like Glenn the free role his talents deserve...
Why does he get gigs?
With Glenn, the question seems often more like "why does he bother taking them?" Appears to gain little enjoyment or satisfaction from being on the TV. There seem to us so many things that he must have interesting opinions about: the English mistrust of the maverick, how he handled Gazza, the crazy Eileen Drewery and "past lives" episodes, the pressures of managing England...we get the sense that is not a person who wants to share. A shame, because there must be so much more going on than we see on screen. And, let's say it again: he was a simply exquisite footballer.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
See extracts from Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here.
Check out John's new series of crime novels about life, death, sex and UEFA Cup football, here.