For the sake of football and his country, Glenn should now do the decent thing

Jeff Powell

Last updated at 00:00 12 October 1998

IF THE Football Association ever get round to impeaching Glenn Hoddle, the bizarre matters of that woman, that book and that disciplinary record will be relegated to the small print.

A prima facie case for terminating the contract of the head coach on fundamental, old-fashioned football principles has been made out by the most limp, turgid and, most critically, uninspired performance in England's Wembley history.

The players who took to the hallowed turf on Saturday gave every impression of playing for themselves rather than the man who sent them up the tunnel.

That, as it turned out, was the real writing on the wall for Hoddle, not, as he had put it, 'them three points,' which he had divinely foreseen as England's destiny.

If a manager loses the belief, the respect and the commitment of his players, he is down to the bottom line, whether he can see it or not.

Hoddle is not the first England coach to be jeered off to a chorus of 'what a load of rubbish'.

We have all endured many a night of fumbling ineptitude, simplistic tactics devoid of creative ideas and professional incompetence but never before an England team bereft of heart and spirit. And I Gate are entitled to question whether their coach is still able to motivate their team.

Whether or not he can reach the other side with the help of Eileen, it has to be seriously open to question now whether he is getting through to his players.

There was bound to be anticlimax after the hysteria and the anguish of France 98 but someone has to get these young men up and running through brick walls for their country again and that someone is supposed to be Hoddle.

Personal pride induced intermittent spasms of individual frenzy among natural competitors like Alan Shearer and Sol Campbell, while Graeme Le Saux came on like a substitute demented to enliven the left flank for a spell.

But the collective will to die for The Boss was not visible from where I sat watching an England team peter away into abject disinterest for the first time in living memory.

This wasn't just bad, it was the worst.

am not referring to the religious. The answer to this crisis does not lie in the tealeaves.

Hoddle's England were so devoid of passion, urgency or even basic energy that the mandarins of Lancaster If it hadn't been England, you could have suspected they were playing to get rid of the manager.

The wretchedness of a feeble Bulgaria gave the full, disgraceful measure of England's inertia.

All the pre-match intelligence about a depressed Eastern European football nation brought to its knees by economic collapse, managerial upheaval, internal feuding and the ageing of its 1994 World Cup generation proved accurate.

Here was a team which, when it came to scoring, was possessed of less ambition than a eunuch in a harem.

Bulgaria arrived at Wembley riven with apprehension and departed unable to believe their good fortune in playing at the old stadium on a day when England were more pedestrian than the appalled fans who began trudging for the stations at halftime.

Yes, of course Bulgaria came for the draw. The state they are in at the moment, anything else would have been suicide. They disported themselves like a pub team on tour . . . who would be a stone a

man overweight and doing their best to fit in a football match between London shopping and a heavy night on the town.

But to protest, as Hoddle has, that England were denied by one of the most masterful of defensive performances is as putrid as the opposition.

This is hardly the first time England have been confronted by man-for-man Continental marking and they and their manager really should have learned enough about it by now to have found a way through Bulgaria's basic exercise of that system.

Their No.5 was slower than Michael Owen and their No.7 smaller than Shearer. Yet England mustered only one goal attempt on target in the course of 90 minutes heralded by Hoddle as crucial to his Euro 2000 campaign.

How many more points must follow the first five down the tubes - three in Sweden and two here before the FA's accountants take notice?

Sleepwalking never won major championships, not even in your psychic dreams.

Not that the crowd was ever likely to rouse the team from its slumbers. A full-house Wembley has never been so silent and you could only feel sorry for the kids among them, Owen included.

Whatever the argument as to whether the separate genius of Owen and Shearer makes a partnership, it remains unresolved by the dereliction of service this weekend.

Jamie Redknapp was lightweight, Robert Lee depressingly ordinary, Darren Anderton peripheral and Paul Scholes largely lost somewhere in the confusing scheme of things. Hoddle retreated into excuses about the absence of regular midfield players but his indulgence of overblown egos has contributed to the loss of Ince, Beckham and the tragi-figure of Gascoigne for varying terms in the sin-bin.

The buck always stops with the manager. With Luxembourg next and Poland and Sweden waiting until next year, Hoddle has a stay of execution. But even in the tiny Grand Duchy this Wednesday he needs his players to demonstrate the extent of their loyalty with a substantial victory.

Hoddle came to Wembley this weekend calling upon the faithful to get behind England. In that vein, the back page of the match programme plagiarised President John F Kennedy's historic clarion call to the American people: Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

If Glenn Hoddle has lost the England players then the answer should be obvious to him.

Do the decent thing . . .

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