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The Mail on Sunday - 2021-11-21

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So, Glenn, what is it like reading your own obituary?

Football

By Rob Draper CHIEF FOOTBALL WRITER Playmaker, My Life and Love of Football by Glenn Hoddle is published by Harper Collins

GLENN HODDLE is surveying Tottenham’s prospects and searching carefully for the best words. Like most fans, he desperately seeks some optimism amid the chaos. Yet there are also pointed criticisms, which reveal his frustrations with the custodianship of chairman Daniel Levy. ‘Under the circumstances I’m going to give him a bit of praise: Daniel couldn’t have got anyone better at this moment in time,’ Hoddle says. ‘Whether the key was the United result, because if United had lost [to Spurs], Antonio Conte might have been Man United manager, that is the delicacy of it all. ‘But Daniel is at a bit of crossroads and in a position where he has to back Conte. Now he has a chance. They have good horse, as in this Spurs team. Not a classic horse, not a great horse. But a good horse with a very good jockey. And Daniel now is the trainer who will spend money, I presume, on the horse. It doesn’t mean you’re going to win the race. But you’re giving yourself every chance.’ Naturally, there is a degree of exasperation. After all, it’s Tottenham. But for now, Hoddle is just grateful to be able to fret over the fate of the club where he was taken as a boy by his father, Derek, to watch, where he came through the youth ranks to make 377 appearances and become one of their greats, before managing them for two years between 2001 and 2003. Grateful because it’s not often you have the opportunity to review your own obituary, but Hoddle is doing so now. We had collaborated on a column he wrote in this newspaper for three years. A few days before his collapse with a cardiac arrest on his 61st birthday, October 27, 2018, we had shared a coffee in Eindhoven before a Spurs game there. He had seemed perfectly well. So when news came of his collapse that Saturday morning, the article I penned in haste that afternoon felt like a farewell. As such it is gratifying to share it with Hoddle three years later over morning coffee at a Windsor hotel by a tranquil River Thames. With apologies to Mark Twain, but reports of Hoddle’s death were exaggerated. Hoddle collapsed as the closing credits of BT’s Saturday Morning Savage ran. Host Robbie Savage came to the same conclusion as most. ‘Robbie told me that when I went off on the stretcher, they thought I had gone,’ says Hoddle. Hoddle’s life was saved by the prompt action of BT sound engineer, Simon Daniels, who gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Hoddle now campaigns for first aid training and defibrillator access. He is here to discuss his new book, Playmaker, which is really the first time he has attempted to put his life down on paper. ‘I did do a book before, Spurred to Success. But I did laugh when they asked me. I was only 23. Nothing had happened!’ Since then, he had generally turned fuss like that down. ‘Then this happened, I was so close to dying and when I was recuperating, I thought “You know what? You’ve been given a second chance. When I’m back well again just do what you want to do. Don’t have inhibitions. Just enjoy it”.’ The Masked Singer, the TV show in which Hoddle dressed up as a grandfather clock (yes, really) to sing Rock Around the Clock, was another project he embraced, as is a BT documentary, out next month. So even to be around to worry about whether Spurs can get back to the Champions League is to be reminded that, amid its ultimate unimportance, football is one of the more glorious distractions of life. The downside has been the inertia at the club since they reached the Champions League final. ‘That was the time to invest,’ Hoddle says. ‘The problem was, despite getting to the Champions League final, that team wasn’t doing that great at the back end of that season. How we got to the final was crazy: VAR at Man City, the Ajax comeback. I’m sure every Spurs fan and Daniel Levy were probably pinching themselves. But that team needed to be built then, from being on the front foot, not on the back foot. ‘When Arsenal built their stadium, they still got top four. They didn’t drop to seventh or eighth and say “We’re going to rebuild again”. ‘That’s where Arsene did such a fantastic job, whereas we have missed out, going out of the top four and clinging on and playing in the bloody European Conference. That’s where we’re at. ‘How much money has been spent on paying out managers? They could have bought a worldclass player for that amount! I think he’s got to the point of: “Where do I go from here if Conte doesn’t work out?” ‘He’s done unbelievable with the stadium, the training ground, the infrastructure. Businesswise, they’ve done fantastic. But stadiums don’t win football trophies. It’s the team that goes out there on the pitch. Then all the other stuff, everything comes into its own and brings better players to you. ‘And that was the moment, the Champions League final. Whether we won the game or not, the club should have won from that position. Unfortunately, that time has been missed. But you have the best jockey on the horse at the moment.’ That said, the job Conte has, with Leeds at home today, remains huge. ‘At the moment, in that midfield area, I’m concerned. You can maybe improve it, get them fitter, but you’re not going to turn them into something that they need to get back to the next level.’ Still, all things considered, it’s a nice problem for Hoddle to be worrying about on a sunny autumn day by the river.

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