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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 13:18 GMT
Hoddle splits opinion
By John May

Is Glenn Hoddle returning to Southampton
Return of the Prodigal Son or a Bad Penny turning up?

A sensational return to Southampton would arguably mark Glenn Hoddle out as both at the same time.

As speculation mounts that Hoddle is about to stroll back to the club he walked out on three years ago, BBC Sport asks why Southampton would want him.

FOR HOD'S SAKE, NO!

Hoddle's appointment would split Saints support asunder.

Some Saints fans will ascribe to Hoddle's views on reincarnation that he should pay for the sins of a previous life.

Following his sacking as England coach, Hoddle was a footballing outcast but he was given another chance at Southampton and when he left some vowed they could never forgive or forget what they saw as an act of treachery.

Hoddle's arrival was in controversial circumstances.

He was brought in ostensibly to cover for Dave Jones who was given gardening leave to fight child abuse charges - of which he was later cleared.

HODDLE'S SOUTHAMPTON RECORD
Played: 52
Won: 22
Drew: 18
Lost: 12

From the moment he took up the reins, it was assumed and accepted by most at Southampton that Hoddle was merely marking time, waiting for the siren song to summon him to his spiritual home of Tottenham.

But that call came a lot sooner than expected and the manner and haste with which Hoddle answered it seemed cold, callous and calculating.

Hoddle had mysteriously given the players a week's leave in the middle of the season, jetted off to South Africa and on his return phoned Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe from Heathrow to announce he was going to talk with Spurs (having already done so while abroad).

His ill-fated return to Totteham hints he could be a busted flush.

Hoddle arrived at White Hart Lane to a fanfare, and left to raspberries, having failed to ignite the club in two-and-a-half years.

Much to Saints' fans delight, their 3-1 win at White Hart Lane signalled the end for Hoddle, sacked after nine games in charge this season.

SO WHY WOULD THEY WANT HIM BACK?

There is nobody around any better.

Lowe is correct in his assessment that the post is one of the most attractive around.

Whoever comes in will take charge of a well-run, financially stable club, in a smart new stadium.

It contains a squad of talented players at least good enough for the top half of the Premiership, and a burgeoning youth set-up which sees Saints Reserves and their Under-19 teams topping their leagues.

Lowe is looking for the man to take this tempting set-up onwards.

There are disadvantages to appointing an Frenchman.

Southampton looked set to follow the lead of Arsenal and Liverpool by looking across the Channel for their next coach, with former Marseille coach Alain Perrin and fellow Frenchman Phillipe Troussier linked with the job.

Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe
Rupert Lowe has a tough decision to make

But, although Lowe's recents trips to France were not to stock up his wine cellar, the attendant problems make appointing a foreign coach an increasingly unappetising prospect.

The language barrier would be the main issue, with good communication key, but a foreign coach could also enforce a system unfamilar to the players.

That leaves Lowe contemplating an ever-shrinking field of home-grown managerial talent.

As his appointment of Jones showed, Lowe has not been afraid to dip into the lower divisions, but are the likes Paul Sturrock ready at the moment for the task of taking Southampton forward?

The summer's inevitable managerial musical chairs may pop up a suitable candidate. But by definition, anybody left standing when the music stops will be unwanted, shop-soiled goods.

Hoddle's coaching skills still command respect among players.

Criticisms of his man-management skills have largely come from players with an axe to grind, such as Teddy Sheringham and Tim Sherwood.

HODDLE'S SPURS HITS OR MISSES
Misses: Acimovic, Toda, Bunjevcevic, Redknapp.
Hits: Richards, Keane, Ziege, Kanoute, Dalmat, Keller, Poyet, Ricketts.
Jury out: Postiga, Mabizela

For all those criticisms, few would question his coaching ability, and his good signings outweighed his bad ones at White Hart Lane during his time in charge.

Hoddle would be returning to a squad which contains six, key senior players from his last spell there - James Beattie, skipper Jason Dodd, Matt Oakley, Claus Lundekvam, Jo Tessem and Marian Pahars - who will bear proof of the success of his coaching methods.

BBC Sport spoke to one player who said: "I don't think you can argue with his coaching ability.

"He instilled a different mentality into us and turned us into a team who believed we could win, from one that perhaps hoped it would.

"He was also tactically very cute, and could spot and make changes he needed to make in a game, very quickly.

"You may not have agreed with all of his methods all the time, but he got results and that is the bottom line."

Southampton have discovered, ironically as Spurs discovered when they sacked Hoddle, that it is not a good time to be looking for a proven coach to manage a Premiership team.

Lowe is a pragmatic chairman. He will note the fans' disquiet, but he will not be swayed by it.

In the end, he will do what he believes is right for Southampton FC, the plc and its shareholders, and so far, he has not got many of appointments wrong.

Saints may end up with Glenda because of TINA. There Is No Alternative.






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