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Blair adds voice to wave of criticism engulfing Hoddle

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Posted: Monday February 01, 1999 12:31 PM

  British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said it may be difficult for Hoddle to remain as coach AP

LONDON (Reuters) -- Glenn Hoddle's grip on his job as England coach appeared to be hanging by a slender thread on Monday after British Prime Minister Tony Blair stepped into the row over his alleged remarks about the disabled.

Blair said in a television interview that he thought it would be hard for Hoddle to remain in position if the remarks he is reported to have made are true.

The Prime Minister said: "If he has said what he was reported to have said in the way he is reported to have said it, then it was very wrong. It would be very difficult for him to stay. It was very offensive."

Hoddle's future as England coach will be decided within 36 hours as an increasing storm of criticism threatens to bring down the 41-year-old.

The English Football Association (F.A.) will decide on Hoddle's future in the next 24 hours, said interim chief executive David Davies on Monday.

Davies, speaking outside the F.A.'s west London offices at Lancaster Gate, said: "The people we feel very sorry for this morning and today are understandably disabled people.

"Glenn has made it clear he is sorry if they got the wrong impression of what he said and are upset by what has been reported.

"As far as today is concerned, we are bringing together a number of people here to discuss the situation. We do not expect Mr. Hoddle here. We do not expect any further developments here today."

Hoddle has been asked to explain his views to acting chairman Geoff Thompson and the decision on his future will be taken by Thompson and senior members of the F.A.'s International Committee.

The flood of criticism was sparked by a report in Saturday's Times newspaper quoting him as saying that disabled people were paying for sins in a past life.

The England coach was reported to have said: "You and I have been physically given two hands and two legs and a half-decent brain. Some people have not been born like that for a reason. The karma is working from another lifetime."

Hoddle said his remarks had been misconstrued. England's new sponsors, the Nationwide Building Society, demanded talks with the F.A., saying the comments were abhorrent if true.

Meanwhile, British bookmakers William Hill said they believe Hoddle is so certain to lose his job that they are not taking any more bets on him resigning or being sacked.

"All the indications are that Hoddle will either have to resign or face the sack," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

"We have been offering odds of 6/4 that Hoddle would go before the end of the current season but we've now decided to close that book and concentrate on taking bets on who will succeed him as the next permanent England coach," Sharpe said.

William Hill has made Middlesbrough manager and former England captain Bryan Robson 6/4 favorite to be the next permanent England coach.

They also offer 5/1 on Aston Villa boss John Gregory and Fulham manager and former England international Kevin Keegan.

Sports Minister Tony Banks also refused to back Hoddle, with whom he has worked closely on England's bid to win the right to stage the 2006 World Cup finals.

Banks, a fervent Chelsea fan and great admirer of Hoddle during his spell as Chelsea manager, said: "Anybody who disparages disabled people totally insults them."

Blind Education Secretary David Blunkett was reported to have said: "If Hoddle is right then I must have been a failed football manager in a previous existence."

The Mirror newspaper on Monday forecast he may bow to demands for his resignation, saying he had told colleagues he does not have the stomach to ride out the furore.

Not to be outdone, the top-selling Sun tabloid carried a picture of a one-legged schoolboy soccer star on its front page, next to the caption: "I've only got one leg, so how could you be so hurtful to me Hoddle?"

Hoddle's views echo those of his mentor Eileen Drewery, a former Essex pub landlady and faith healer Hoddle has used since he was a teenager.

Her association with the England football team during its doomed World Cup campaign in France last northern summer provoked a wave of criticism of Hoddle's management techniques.

Hoddle said his only mistake in England's World Cup campaign was not to take Drewery to France '98.

 
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