Glenn Hoddle on managing Southgate and reasons for England to be cheerful

Few figures in the history of English football have been through the emotional ringer quite like Glenn Hoddle.

Stood on the Azteca turf in 1986 as El Diego followed up the Hand of God with the Goal of the Century, Hoddle was in the dugout 12 years later as David Beckham flicked his boot out at Diego Simeone before England lost on penalties to Argentina.

Right there in two of the most painful defeats in Three Lions history, a whole generation of England fans have grown up knowing nothing but heartache. The prospect of reaching successive major tournament semi-finals – three if you count the Nations League – was once unthinkable.

A former player and manager, Hoddle is now just like everyone else in England: a fan enjoying the ride.

“I’m really enjoying the way we’ve got through,” Hoddle said, speaking at a Betfair event.

“Because everyone was up in arms after Scotland. But it’s how you finish tournaments. You know, you can peak too early. If you wrote it and you planned it, you couldn’t plan it any better. Your talisman, your best goalscorer is starting to score just going into knockout rounds and bang. He’s now going to, I think, go on [and score] even more. So there are so many positives.

“You haven’t conceded a goal, you know, you’d write all that in. Your goalkeeper who there were question marks about has been a sound as a pound. He’s looking really calm and collected, where he hasn’t [always] been. But I think he’s done a lot of work behind the scenes over the last year or so at his club.

“[Declan] Rice and [Kalvin] Phillips, who I had in my team from the start, those two have been [brilliant]. If they were playing for another country’s team, you’d be going, ‘Wow! Them two have been brilliant.’ They’re just sitting in there doing their job, but they can pass, they’ve got energy and they can do this and that. [Luke] Shaw has peaked as we know he could do, but it was always a question mark about him, but now he’s, he’s playing, he’s doing it in a tournament.

“There’s flexibility. We haven’t gone into extra time and extra time with a [Phil] Foden or a [Jack] Grealish or a [Marcus] Rashford coming on. I wouldn’t want to play against them if I was in extra time. We’ve now got a tournament that’s in our country. It becomes our tournament from the semi-finals; two games at Wembley.”

England’s run to the semi-finals of Euro 2020 has been suspiciously stress-free so far. They needed penalties to progress past Colombia at the World Cup in Russia, but Thomas Muller’s one-on-one against Jordan Pickford aside, there have been few heart-in-mouth moments in this year’s campaign.

A first knockout win over Germany since 1966, and a first knockout victory over a traditional powerhouse in 25 years was a remarkably routine 2-0 win in the end, before cruising to a 4-0 victory over Ukraine in the quarter-finals.

Pickford is guaranteed the Golden Glove, whatever happens next, having kept a clean sheet in all five of England’s matches so far. But Hoddle remains slightly cautious at the prospect of how Gareth Southgate’s men would respond to falling behind.

“You know, you that’s when you find out about a team and that’s where Gareth has got to see,” he says. “That’s the only question and that might not even occur. If we go one down, can we manage that game? Can we deal with it?

“Because I saw an Italian side lose a goal against Austria and they panicked. 10 minutes, 15 minutes. They were lucky that they went into extra time and then they settled back down again. A better team would have beaten them. And I saw ‘em, I was at Wembley and I saw them panic.”

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READ: Glenn Hoddle: England’s bad luck with refs is due to Geoff Hurst’s goal in ’66

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Given how England have performed in the subsequent matches, it’s only taken a couple of weeks for certain pundits’ criticism of Southgate following the group stage 0-0 draw with Scotland to age like milk.

But Hoddle wasn’t concerned, having had the experience of such occasions as a player and manager.

I had a little wry smile to myself, listening to a lot of people,” Hoddle says. “I’ve played in them games, whether it’s Home International, friendly, a qualifier, or in a tournament [against Scotland] they’re not true European games.

“That is a battle. It’s an England-Scotland battle. It’s not normally a great game. If you come out of it with a draw, normally it’s the norm.

“So that was never going to be easy for us. It was a one-off. Before we went into that game. I put that aside and I thought, ‘Well, we’ve won our first game. You know what? I’ll be happy with a draw. We’ll be fine.’ So, no, it was, it was interesting the reaction to it. Then as I said, the group stages, no one’s really remembering that now.”

Of Hoddle’s 22-man squad for the 1998 World Cup, few figures have gone on to forge successful careers in coaching themselves.

The less said the better about Alan Shearer’s time at Newcastle and Gary Neville’s stint at Valencia, while Phil Neville is currently struggling at Inter Miami after a contentious spell in charge of England Women. Sol Campbell and Paul Ince’s CVs are something of a mixed bag.

Southgate’s success in charge of England is the outlier, while his willingness to adapt between systems dates back to his own experience as an England player.

“He was one of my players in the back three. He’s flexible enough to play with the back three, which he’s done. I think when he enjoyed playing in a back three at times with me for England. He saw the advantages of it.

“He was very, very professional, a very easy guy to manage really. Like he is now, very even keel, a pretty calm character. I think you see that and his management, he doesn’t get carried away, does he, if they win? And he tries not to get carried away if they lose or the results go against him.

“He was like that as a player, and he was dependable as a player. You could depend on him. In the style of player that he was and the character that he was. It was very much like how he’s managing this England side.”

But he doesn’t see many similarities between those that went to France in 1998 and today’s squad.

“We had a lot of experienced players. Gareth hasn’t got this mixture. There’s one or two older players, whereas normally you get [more]. So your downtime, your off-the-pitch time, things are easier.

“I had very experienced players, I had younger players coming in. Not so many in the middle. We had good players, don’t get me wrong. We had better players at the top of the pitch [than in the current squad] in many ways, overall, the depth of them, you know, the likes of [Michael} Owen, [Alan] Shearer, [Teddy] Sheringham and [Les] Ferdinand.

“The way they play now, the game is played a little bit more like we played back then, but I think that’s the modern-day game. Look at the pitches, look at the rules. It would have been even more conducive for the team I had. But this team have set their stall out and they know that overly playing is not the right thing at times.”

Hoddle struck a cautiously optimistic tone ahead of England’s semi against Denmark. As with every other England fan, he seems to be loving every step of the journey.

By Joshua Law and Nestor Watach

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