England’s Under-21’s may still be searching for Stuart Pearce’s replacement at the helm after their farcical display at this summer’s European Championships, but the ideal candidate may be in front of our own eyes - Glenn Hoddle.
In the absence of a permanent manager, senior boss Roy Hodgson took charge for England U21’s friendly against Scotland on Tuesday, which the Three Lions won 6-0. A surprise to many, the fixture showed England’s cubs have enormous potential and unlike at the Euros, were able to keep the ball well.
Gareth Southgate and Steve McClaren sit as favourites to replace Pearce, who was sacked after his side failed to collect a single point in Israel. Despite conjuring a fairly unimpressive CV at Middlesbrough, Southgate’s strengths come from his time as head of elite development with the FA. McClaren, a former Boro manager himself, has won a League Cup in his time at the Riverside and won the League with Dutch side FC Twente in the first of his two spells. However, McClaren would no doubt be an unpopular choice with fans, with his time in charge of the senior squad and failure to reach Euro 2008 still fresh in the memory.
Glenn Hoddle also managed England until he was sacked in 1999 - his international experience was prematurely curtailed after he spouted controversial religious beliefs about people with disabilities in a newspaper interview.
Hoddle’s appointment may be a little too close for comfort for the FA who cannot afford the new manager to repeat any such gaffes. And yet, it may also be time for the country to stop punishing Hoddle for his mistakes over a decade ago, a mistake he has profusely apologised for since.
Harry Redknapp became the latest figure in the game to sing Hoddle’s praises, and Rio Ferdinand has claimed England have not had a sense of identity since the Englishman was sacked.
Apart from his vast managerial experience with Swindon, Chelsea, Southampton, Spurs and Wolves, the Glenn Hoddle Academy makes him the perfect candidate. Hoddle works with young footballers for a living, founding and sustaining an academy that aims to get players who have been released by Premier League and Championship clubs back into professional football.
Hoddle recently threw a spanner into the works by claiming he would never take the U21 job unless he was allowed full selection and the best available players were made fully dispensable to him. Pearce’s job was made unnecessarily difficult with several of the top English players U21 - Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Rodwell and Danny Welbeck were all unable to take part at this summer’s tournament because they were on friendly duty with Roy Hodgson’s side. Hoddle’s demands are entirely reasonable, and if the FA is serious about youth development through the U21’s, his demands should be met with no questions asked.
Pinpoint passes made Hoddle an England hero. It's a universally acknowledged truth that one of the reasons England will probably not win the World Cup in most of our lifetimes is that there is not enough focus on the development of young English players.
In Hoddle, England has the chance to change that, but only if he is to stop being punished for beliefs he held almost fifteen years ago.
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