“If He Was French He Would Have Got 150 Caps.”

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Never was the ‘Hoddle debate’ more intense nor more fractious than in the context of his relationship with the English national side. Away from the more protective environment of White Hart Lane, service with England both as a player and manager exposed Hoddle to scrutiny that was at best rigorous and at worst gratuitously vicious.

Adam Powley and Martin Cloake and  are quite rightly among other things highly respected authors. This is another reason to appreciate their literary efforts. The pair have teamed up yet again to produce a series of ebooks called Sports Shots. And this is to let you know about the Glenda Hoddle one!

By the summer of 1986, when Hoddle was 28 and at his peak, the England midfield had been built around the energy and drive of Bryan Robson. The arguments over whether Hoddle’s place in the national side was merited or not should have been over. Had he made enough appearances, supporters or detractors would have been able to judge whether he was a success with England. The simple truth is he didn’t play enough for such a judgement to be made.

Hoddle was again the choice of many to lead the midfield, but Ron Greenwood’s successor Bobby Robson appeared to share the same reluctance. Fondly remembered as a great romantic of the game, Robson had no indulgent sentimentality for Hoddle and, under intense pressure not to lose games, he favoured the industry of Bryan Robson and Ray Wilkins.

The Hoddle-England conundrum was never better exposed than in the disastrous European Championships finals of 1988. England were in a tough group but that could not excuse a dreadful display. Reduced to the role of stand-in for a hopelessly out-of-his depth Neil Webb, Hoddle finally made an impact in the match against the eventual winners Holland. He struck a post but thereafter was sidelined as the Dutch exploited some comical English defending.

It was the familiar story of English tactical and technical weakness, but instead of the culprits paying the price – players such as Tony Adams who were most glaringly bereft of the necessary technique and positional acumen – it was Hoddle who became one of the fall guys. He played once more in another humiliation against Russia and at 31 never featured for England again. He had played 53 games and scored a paltry eight goals.

Bryan Robson, by contrast, despite his recurring injuries, finished with 90 caps and, operating from a position in which he was encouraged to get forward, scored 26 times.

It’s not that Robson was not effective for England, nor that he was undeniably a great player, but if ever there was a glaring illustration of the value English football placed on its reservoir of talent, those contrasting statistics tell a revealing story.

Remarkably, Bobby Robson survived the post 1988 inquest, along with his skipper Bryan. The pair were to finally end their England days in the 1990 World Cup; Bobby with some kind of fortuitous redemption and glorious failure, Bryan yet again succumbing to injury. The only marvel about Captain Marvel by this stage was that he had lasted as long to be considered worthy of inclusion.

And by then, Hoddle was charming the French. Another artist who elevated football above the level of artisanship, Michel Platini, famously said of Hoddle “If he was French he would have got 150 caps.”

It summed up the differing philosophies of the Gallic and Anglo-Saxon game, but also showed that if he were to be truly appreciated, the Englishman had to find a new and more appreciative home.

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  • KLSpurs says:

    The most underrated player ever!

  • KLSpurs says:

    I became a fan on Spurs in 1980, mainly due to Hoddle. What a player!

  • Cyril says:

    It was and is a scandal.

    One of the most talented English players ever, constantly on trial for his England place. Hardly ever seemed to make successive appearances, often a substitute or substituted.

    Opened his England career with an assist and a classic volleyed goal … dropped for the next match. The idea that players like Wilkins and later on Lampard, Beckham etc have so many more caps than Hoddle is grotesque.

    Platini isn’t always right, but he was right about that one. Other members of the Hoddle fan club: Bergkamp, Gullit, Maradona, Cruyff …. what do they know?

    Wish I hadn’t read your blog this time Harry … 30 plus years of anger have come right back!!!

    • Harry Hotspur says:


      I hated England for not recognising him. I remember Ron Greenwood’s England was the home of the lateral ball.

      • cyril says:

        we have two cyrils on this site
        i can become cyril 2 but have been posting for some considerable time and have posted below. however this cyril seems to think like me so maybe i am doing an andy goram and not realising it

        • Harry Hotspur says:

          Why don’t you grab a Gravatar and fight for your true identity!!! :freu

        • cyril says:

          i am most impressed harry
          i had to google to see what a gravatar is (not sure i understand now). with all due respect, you cant be a spring chicken with your knowledge of spurs teams og the past so kudos for being to technologically able. god only knows what i will do when my teenagers leave the house (other than crack open some champers)

        • Phil McAvity says:

          Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorrrrram’s!!!

      • Chrispurs says:

        Totally agree Mr H. Greenwood was the worst England manager in my time. I remember Brian Tolbet (Ipswich & Arse) as first choice.

        Johann Cruyff said: ‘I didn’t realize how good he was until I played against him.’

  • Hamish says:

    I think he would have been a great England manager too. Unfortunately boys from Hayes aren’t noted for their mastery of philosophy and the footballing genius he strayed a little outside his area of expertise and started spouting sub-Ike bullshit.

    I always remember him saying in an interview that oftentimes he didn’t need to look to find a team mate – he would simply “feel” where they were. He also claimed that he had the ability to see the pitch – the players and the movement – from above. Unfortunately I think he confused heightened spatial awareness for the supernatural, went off the rails and “found God”. A tragedy for football – but a gift for Jasper Carrot who famously quipped: “That must have been some pass.”

    • SpurredoninDublin says:

      Good post, but I would question his credentials as a manager. You never felt that he could “bring the dressing room with him” and he was willing to blame or apparently snub players publicly.

      I can remember both TV and Robson being knocked out on penalties and their first reaction was to console those who had missed their spot kicks. If a player let Hoddle down, you could see a look on his face that said, “I wont be talking to him for a week”.

      He was a kid at Spurs when Billy Nick was around, but his managerial influence was Whinger. That might explain it. I am sure that both TV and Robson were gutted to go out on pens, but they portrayed the image of being “good losers”, something that Whinger will never be guilty of.

      As a player though, he is right up there in the top echelon of Spurs “All Time Greats”, and bearing in mind the great players we have had, that makes him an unqualified great player.

      To some extent, he bears comparison with Greaves in so far as neither should be judged on their work rate but on their end product.

      Brian Clough always said that it was a disgrace that he only got 50 odd caps, and that if he had been the England manager, he would have got at least 100.

      • Billy Legit says:

        It was a disgrace that Brian Clough never got the England job.

        Just another example of the ineptitude and incompetence of the English F.A for the last 30+ years along with the way ‘Hod the God’ was treated.

        Have never forgiven them and never will……..sod the national team!

        • SpurredoninDublin says:

          The problem with the FA has always been it’s condescending attitude to the working classes. Even though you were working class, unless you gave the appearance of being a “gentleman”, and Clough with his Northern “take no prisoners” charm, was nover going to be regarded as a gentleman by that mob.

          Prior to Ramsey, the first England Manager was Walter Winterbottom, a PE teacher, and Ramsey with his Dagenham roots and Romany like appearance felt it best to take elocution lessons to advance his career. Of course this was at a time when regional accents were unknown at the BBC.

        • Billy Legit says:

          Agree, but will they change?

          Doubt it considering that the Army, Navy, RAF and both Oxford and Cambridge Universities are represented on the F.A council and still get F.A cup tickets every year as a given.

          That’s why i found all the FIFA bashing a little bit laughable. Let’s get our own house in order first before pointing/sneering at others.

        • SpurredoninDublin says:

          Yes, but I think the real problem with the Fa, is that it is that it suffers from the three “A’s”, It is Archaic, Anachronistic and Antediluvian.

          FIFA has the three “C’s” Crooks, Corruption and Cronyism.

          One us a like a 19th Century gentlemans club that would be horrified if low lifes like us ever became members. The other is like a Banana Republic divvying up the spoils.

        • SpurredoninDublin says:

          Just in case you were not aware, it was not that long ago, that Oxbridge had two seats in the Commons, and even in Ireland today, Trinity College Dublin has a seat reserved in the Senate.

        • Billy Legit says:

          Yep, the ‘old school tie brigade’ are still alive and kicking…….and we’re in the 21st Century!

  • Adam says:

    Danny Blanchflower, Hoddle’s predecessor in Spurs’ midfield, responded: “Hoddle a luxury? It’s the bad players who’re a luxury.”

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