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Tuesday, February 2, 1999 Published at 15:11 GMT

Sport: Football

How healing has opened football's wounds

Teamwork: Hoddle is a non-executive director of Drewery's company

Glenn Hoddle's future as England coach is on the line.

It is not Hoddle's results, but his decision to use a faith-healer, that appears to have brought his tenure as national boss into question.

The Hoddle File
Opinion within the game is becoming increasingly polarised on the issue of the healer in question, Eileen Drewery.

On one side are Hoddle's sceptical employers - the Football Association's International Committee - backed by an incredulous tabloid press.

And on the other side are Hoddle, his coaching team and a growing number of out-spoken players who believe faith-healing has helped aid their recovery from injury.

But no one seems willing or able to describe Drewery's techniques - let alone explain how they work.

Putting faith in Eileen

[ image: Kelly: Drewery is a
Kelly: Drewery is a "stumbling block" for the FA
According to FA chief executive Graham Kelly, the International Committee has expressed concern at the closeness of Drewery to the England team and wants the subject settled before they offer Hoddle an extension to his contract:

"Three-quarters of the members believe it is a problem," Kelly said. "It is one of the stumbling blocks that has to be addressed."

But Hoddle remains adamant. While he may have stopped short of an 'if she goes, I go' ultimatum, the England boss is ready to fight his corner to keep her within the national set-up.

"It would become an issue if the FA tried to prevent me using Eileen, " Hoddle said. "I have used her at each of the clubs I have managed and her results have been very positive and beneficial."

West Ham and England striker Ian Wright, a self-confessed convert to faith-healing, believes Hoddle is prepared to risk his job over what he sees as a matter of priniciple.

"It would be plain stupid for people in power to try to make Glenn choose between Eileen and his job," Wright said in his Sun column on Tuesday.

"I would probably have a good idea which one he would choose if push came to shove."

The mystery of those healing hands

[ image: Wright:
Wright: "Eileen has helped me considerably"
Wright, like most of the England stars who have used Drewery, is not prepared to discuss her treatment. It is a private matter between the two of them, he insists.

But what does Drewery actually do?

The work of a faith healer is shrouded in mystery. It often involves the laying of hands on injured parts of the body, but little is known about the process.

Hoddle himself is vague on the subject - but believes it is beyond human comprehension:

"If you cut your finger now," he said, "what happens within four or five days? It heals. There's a natural mechanism of healing in your body. If you have enough of an open mind she can trigger that off.

"If you ridicule it, you've got a closed mind. I've seen plenty of people go there cynically and it changed their lives. From my Swindon days, she's saved people's careers."

This has helped create a schism within football between the players - who like most sportsmen are renowned for their superstition - and the administrators, whose over-riding concern is in maintaining the sport's good image.

Drewery has even won support from players who have had no contact with her - because footballers are prepared to trust anything that they see as improving their game.

As Alan Hudson, a star for Chelsea and Arsenal in the 1970s, says: "I believe in anything that works. I think a lot of people in this world are messed up, so who's to knock it. All you've got to do is believe."

[ image: Anderton: Drewery aided comeback from long-term injury]
Anderton: Drewery aided comeback from long-term injury
Indeed, much of Drewery's benefit appears to be psychological.

One of her greatest "successes" has been the rehabilitation of Darren Anderton.

Ridiculed by opposition fans and nicknamed 'Sicknote' after two injury-plagued seasons, the Tottenham midfielder has recovered his fitness and returned to the England side.

Anderton admitted he was "very low" - until Hoddle recommended he visit Drewery.

From there his recovery gathered pace: "She kept me positive," Anderton explained. "Going to her was probably the main cure for my hamstring problems."

And as long as the players feel "positive" about Eileen Drewery, no directive from the FA will stop them putting their faith in her healing hands.

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