Impressive performance is a must for Hoddle

 

Glenn Hoddle posed for photographers outside a Disneyland castle here yesterday while back home the headlines continued to take the mickey. Tonight the England coach will look to his players to cut the tails off the footballing mice of Luxembourg simply in order to gain a breathing space.

Anything other than a victory in the little Josy Barthel Stadium would leave England's chances of qualifying for the next European Championship looking distinctly wan.

Tomorrow Hoddle and the Football Association are due to discuss the pay rise which is allowed under the terms of his contract. It could be anything up to £100,000, which would lift his salary from pounds £250,000 to £350,000.

The timing of these negotiations is unfortunate coming on top of the 2-1 defeat in Sweden and Saturday's goalless draw with Bulgaria at Wembley.

Newspaper opinion polls are demanding his dismissal and Noel White, the chairman of the FA's international committee, described the performance against Bulgaria as "very disappointing".

However, the England coach is not going to be removed from office by the Pavlovian knee jerks of Joe Public. "Opinion polls don't concern me," Hoddle said yesterday. "People will get behind myself and the team again if we're winning. We know we've let ourselves down over the last two games and we've got to rectify that."

Hoddle needs an impressive performance from his players to ease the pressure over the coming five months. England are hoping to arrange a couple of friendlies but these would hardly soften the criticism of Hoddle's handling of the team if the present decline is not arrested.

Several of his critics believe that this is the moment to abandon the faltering system of playing three defenders with wing-backs in favour of a more traditional 4-4-2 formation. Yesterday Hoddle acknowledged that there was room for manoeuvre. "We can bring in fresh legs and a different style of play," he said.

It would be a major surprise if the England coach hauled down the colours of 3-5-2 that he so firmly nailed to his mast for the World Cup. Provided Graeme Le Saux, like Sol Campbell (thigh strain) a minor casualty, has recovered from a bruised foot there may be three changes to the side that started against Bulgaria, but the pattern will surely remain the same.

Le Saux is set to stay in for the injured Andy Hinchcliffe; David Batty, a substitute at Wembley, may start instead of Robert Lee; and David Beckham, his twomatch ban from the World Cup complete, will return in place of Jamie Redknapp, suspended for one game after Saturday's second yellow card. Teddy Sheringham, an obvious attacking option, is a major doubt with calf and knee injuries.

Hoddle is looking more for a change of attitude than personnel. "The movement has to be better and more subtle," he said. "Players have to take on a bit more responsibility in getting past defenders."

The continued absence of the banned Paul Ince will again handicap England's ability to carry the game to the opposition. Not that Luxembourg's team of part-timers, with only two professionals, are likely to defend quite as tightly as Bulgaria did at Wembley.

England (probable 3-5-2): D Seaman (Arsenal); G Neville (Man Utd), G Southgate (Aston Villa), S Campbell, D Anderton (both Tottenham), D Beckham (Man Utd), D Batty (Newcastle), P Scholes (Man Utd), G Le Saux (Chelsea); A Shearer (Newcastle), M Owen (Liverpool).