Most England managers lose their jobs over bad results: Roy Hodgson was sacked after being humiliated by Iceland, Graham Taylor for losing a must-win qualifier against Holland, Kevin Keegan quit after a bitter home defeat to Germany. There have been exceptions, though: Sam Allardyce went for bragging to an undercover reporter how he could do certain favours for a hefty fee, Fabio Capello after a row with the FA over John Terry’s captaincy when accused of racism, Don Revie defected to take UAE oil money.
But Glenn Hoddle remains unique among England managers – possibly among any football manager anywhere ever – for having been sacked over a theological issue. This strange episode unfolded 25 years ago. Since his playing days, Hoddle had stood apart as a born-again Christian when the norm for footballers remained the George Best booze-and-birds lifestyle. But his religious beliefs didn’t excite much wider interest until he took over the England team. And then they did, particularly because – as well as the usual coaching staff – Hoddle began introducing to squad sessions… a faith healer.
He had known Eileen Drewery since he was 17 and credited her with having once helped him make a miraculous recovery from injury. And he believed she could help his players by performing other miracles. The sudden presence at England training of this quasi-religious figure saw the tabloids nickname his team ‘The Hod Squad’.
In his first and only major tournament, the World Cup in France in 1998, Hoddle took some bold decisions: dropping Gazza, the modern George Best, on the eve of the tournament after he was seen out drinking and eating kebabs, then deciding mid-tournament that he would give Michael Owen a starting role despite him being just 18. Owen performed explosively and the team looked genuinely exciting in their knock-out tie before David Beckham’s moment of petulance saw him sent off and the more robust Argentina reined England in.