The Glenn + Co. Massacre

As a Scotsman, I have been viewing with great amusement the turmoil surrounding the England football team this week, culminating in the sacking of manager Glenn Hoddle for his remarks about how the disabled are paying for their sins in a previous life. I’ve never had a lot of time for Hoddle since he stopped playing — a genius on the pitch, he never quite seemed to grasp the fact that much of the job is involved with…well, managing, specifically the players.

However, I confess to having had some sympathy for him over the past few days. To start with, it all began when he was asked for his opinions on the topic, and he gave them. It’s not as if he shouted them out during a pre-match press conference. They are not new, either, he’s said similar things in the past without such a furore springing up. It’s also pretty clear to anyone with half a brain [admittedly, this criteria rules out most of the people running the game in this country] that he’s always been, shall we say, a little eccentric — most notably, his reliance on a faith healer, not just for himself, but the members of the squad he picks. So why are his (admittedly bizarre) religious views now an issue?

It’s obvious that the tabloids have had their knives out for Hoddle since the World Cup. The love affair terminated rapidly after that “glorious night in Rome” [a pedestrian 0-0 draw], and though they failed to have him fired after the World Cup, they have long memories. They always get their man — or at least can claim to, since few incumbents of the England managerial position die on the job. The only real surprise in the entire, depressing coverage was the Mirror not spotting the writing on the wall, and bravely/stupidly taking Hoddle’s side. Not a triumph they will boast about in years to come.

So, should he have been fired? ‘Course not. What he said was no different from what billions of people round the world believe; mind you, reincarnation is not standard Christian philosophy, admittedly. In an earlier age, such heresy would have had him swiftly meeting Messrs.Rack, Pincers and Stake, but in these enlightened days, who really cares? Sure, some people probably found it offensive or hurtful, but that’s in the nature of religion — and there’s no evidence Hoddle has ever gone round pointing at cripples and saying “Ha, ha — bet you’re sorry now”. Indeed, he’s done more for the disabled than I, and probably you too, ever have.

Much has also been made of the supposedly divisive effect on the squad. I doubt professional footballers are actually such delicate creatures as to be damaged by their boss’s religious convictions. I’m sure they possess convictions of their own: criminal damage, drink driving and assault seem to be the favourites. Round this office, we have everyone from atheists to born-again Christians, and no-one really cares, because IT’S UNIMPORTANT. If our job involved baptising children, it might be viewed as relevant, but it isn’t, any more than it is to footballers.

There is, of course, the possibility that Hoddle let his bizarre chocolate box of philosophies influence his choices, but this should have been apparent a long time ago. Waiting for him to answer honestly a loaded question asked by a reporter seems somewhat harsh.

Perhaps he’s better out of the limelight — and certainly, he’ll be considerably richer, England managers needn’t worry about employment any more than ex-Chancellors. His replacement, whoever it is, will no doubt suffer a similar fate the next time the tabloids are feeling particularly bored. Who cares? Just as long as England keep losing!