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 chairman Daniel Levy’s custodianship.
‘Under the circumstances I’m going to give him a bit of semi praise: Daniel couldn’t have got anyone better at this moment in time,’ says Hoddle.
‘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.
Glenn Hoddle believes Spurs made the right call by hiring Antonio Conte earlier this month
‘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, at the moment. 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, which will also be voiced shortly. 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 by his father Derek to watch as a boy, 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.
Hoddle, however, thinks Spurs chairman Daniel Levy’s tenure is at a ‘crossroads’
Levy sacked Nuno Espirito Santo after Spurs lost 3-0 at home to Manchester United
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 day days before his collapse with what turned out to be 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.
Hoddle made 377 appearances for Spurs between 1975 and 1987, before joining Monaco
In 12 seasons at White Hart Lane, Hoddle (left) won two FA Cups in 1981 and 1982
As such, it’s 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, reports of Hoddle’s own death were not especially exaggerated, even if they did turn out to be wrong. Hoddle collapsed as the closing credits of BT’s Saturday Morning Savage ran and host Robbie Savage had come 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 and Hoddle now campaigns for First Aid training and defibrillator access, while Daniels has become a friend.
Hoddle (third left) suffered a cardiac arrest while on air on BT Sports in October 2018 shortly after the conclusion of BT’s Saturday Morning Savage show
The former England midfielder has since resumed his role and continues to work for BT Sport
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!’
He had been asked since to do books, TV shows, events and 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 — and there was a long journey to get there — 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 — Google it) to sing Rock Around the Clock, with the likes of Jonathan Ross and Davina McCall trying to guess his identity, 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.
After his cardiac arrest, Hoddle now campaigns for First Aid training and defibrillator access
He felt it most perhaps when he was back in a studio for Tottenham’s dramatic Champions League semi-final comeback against Ajax final just eight months after his cardiac arrest.
When Lucas Moura’s last minute winner went it, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Lineker and Hoddle erupted, bouncing around the set in celebration. Only after a few seconds did they all realise this perhaps wasn’t in the standard cardiac arrest rehab programme.
‘Are you OK?’ queries Ferdinand in the clip, as a concerned Lineker ushers Hoddle to sit down. ‘My daughters were on to me right away saying: “Dad! You can’t be doing that!”
Hoddle admitted he got a ‘rush of blood to the head’ while celebrating Lucas Moura’s goal against Ajax in 2019
The Brazilian scored a late winner as Spurs reached the 2019 Champions League final
‘I did get a rush of blood to the head. But it was just a joy being alive and seeing my team, who I never dreamt in a million years would reach the Champions League final, doing it. That is what football does to you.’
The downside of course has been the inertia at the club since that final. ‘That was the time [to invest],’ says Hoddle.
‘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.
Hoddle felt Spurs should have invested to allow Mauricio Pochettino to compete for trophies
Tottenham lost the Champions League final in 2019 to Liverpool and Pochettino (right) was sacked just six months later
‘I’m sure every Spurs fan and Daniel Levy were probably pinching themselves. But that team needed to be built then, from being on 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 bloody European conference [league]. That’s where we’re at.
‘There’s a road here for Daniel. How much money been spent on paying out managers? They could have bought a world-class 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. Business-wise, they’ve done fantastic, I’d be the first to shake his hand. But stadiums don’t win football trophies and training grounds are great but don’t win you the trophies. It’s the team that goes out there on pitch and management team.
Hoddle warned Spurs’ state-of-the-art new stadium won’t ‘win trophies’ on its own
‘Then all the other stuff, your fan base, 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.’
And as a Spur legend who did leave the club, for Monaco in 1987, he has some words for Harry Kane, prolific for England but just the one Premier League goal this season after failing to move to Manchester City in the summer.
‘‘As a human being, when you think something is going to happen and it doesn’t, you feel let down. That’s nothing to do with football. That becomes a test of a person and you mentally have to deal with that. There’s a period of time for that [disappointment] to happen but by now it should have been done.
Harry Kane scored back-to-back hat-tricks for England against Albania and San Marino
And Hoddle has urged him to rediscover his goalscoring form at club level too
The former Spurs legend believes Conte is the right man to reignite a fire in Kane
‘He has to find his form for Tottenham. He has to energise himself. No one can do that for him. Conte can’t do it. He can make him run round football pitches and train harder but is he going to motivating him in his mind? The majority of this is: “I’ve gotta do this. I’ve got to get back to almost like when I was being loaned out to Orient.
‘My hunger for winning games needs to come back, albeit I’m in a white shirt not a sky blue shirt.” That’s a mental thing. I think that will happen. It needs to happen for Harry and Tottenham.
‘What options will be out there in the summer? If City are looking at Erling Haaland, there might not be he options there. Don’t be surprised if you see Harry Kane sign a long-term contract at Tottenham.’
Hoddle said Conte could struggle to strengthen his squad in the January transfer window
That said, the job Conte has, with Leeds at home today, remains huge. ‘Who’s he going to bring in in January? At the moment, in that midfield area, I’m concerned. You could have Alf Ramsey, Bobby Robson, Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho, and Pep Guardiola all moulded into one and say: “Right, we’re going to make that midfield the best in England.”
‘Sorry, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter what manager it is. You can maybe improve it, get them fitter, press the ball better as a unit but you’re not going to turn them into something that they need to get back to the next level. That will take time and you don’t get time as a manager.’
Still, all things considered, it’s a nice problem for Hoddle to be worrying about on a sunny autumnal day by the River Thames.
Playmaker, My Life and Love of Football by Glenn Hoddle is published by Harper Collins