How Hoddle Lost The Spurs Dressing Room

In a world of back-biting, media payoffs and moles within the team, Rohan Ricketts reveals what happened when Glenn Hoddle lost the dressing room at Spurs.
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In a world of back-biting, media payoffs and moles within the team, Rohan Ricketts reveals what happened when Glenn Hoddle lost the dressing room at Spurs.

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My former gaffer, ex-England boss Glenn Hoddle who was in charge of Spurs in 2002-03, was a top class coach but he had a very different approach to management, in terms of his thought patterns and man to man management.

A lot of managers just manage by the book – but he was more tactically acute than others. He wanted to play similar to Arsenal or Barcelona. If we played well it looked really good but if we didn’t – people started questioning him and saying “Oh, it’s too complicated”.

This was all fine when we were winning but as soon as a few results went against us, I remember players, myself included at times, started to question his unorthodox methods. It was something you would be able you sense in the air as soon as the manager was having a meeting or team talk for a game.

What was interesting was how he spoke to players. His man management skills were, how can I say, different. Part of the problem was that he was such a good player – even long after he retired – and he expected everyone else to be able to do what he could.

"The Evening Standard approached me with a couple of thousand quid for some juicy stuff about the situation between Glenn and David Pleat"

There was one time in training when we were working on free-kicks and he told one senior player, “If you can’t do this then I don’t know why you’re even playing football”. When we were all at Wolves together after Spurs, Hoddle held me and Paul Ince in high esteem but anyone who had a faint heart would feel overwhelmed by him.

Another problem for Glenn was that he is very spiritual which doesn’t sit right in football because most people are very superficial. I remember one time there was a player who was injured and the manager put his hand on their knee. The player was like “what?!” The gaffer had a strong belief that we are more powerful than we think we are but I’m still not exactly sure what he was trying to do.

I was new at the club so I was more of an observer than a talker. I personally did not want to see the manager leave but I could see that I was only one of a few. It was different from me than any other player because he’d given me my chance in the Premier League. He’d played me ahead of big name players and had never taken me off - I was even on the verge of playing for England.

So it shocked me when I first heard the skipper was having meetings with the chairman about the manager. I thought that was a touch unfair but once the senior players had expressed their feelings against Glenn’s methods it left the chairman with no other option than to wield the axe.

Even though I didn’t agree, I don’t believe this was player power gone too far. It’s the players who have to work with the manager and if his ways are not going down well then you have to listen to them because 25 players don’t lie. Players and managers need a happy understanding – if not then something needs to be done.

On the pitch, there was no hiding the fact that Glenn had lost the dressing room. When players stop believing in their manager they look like they’re not trying hard enough – their minds appear to be elsewhere. They stop following instructions and don’t track back quick enough.

"One time a player was injured and Hoddle put his hand on their knee. The player was like “what?!” The gaffer had a strong belief that we are more powerful than we think we are. I’m still not exactly sure what he was trying to do."

I’m not saying these players do it on purpose. Players have got their pride – they don’t want to have a stinker but football is more in the mind than in the feet. If there are problems off the field then they will weigh on the players’ minds and so won’t be as focused on the game as they should be.

Sometimes when the manager has lost the dressing room, players start to feign injury because they don’t fancy away games – don’t fancy that long journey. They’d rather spend time with their families instead.

During this period I remember the media having their noses and eyes fixed firmly on the training ground. You would have thought 50 Cent had popped in for a visit. The press were desperate to get some sort of info and were always digging for more dirt. They had moles in the team and offered others cash to talk. The Evening Standard approached me with a couple of thousand quid for some juicy stuff about the situation between Glenn and David Pleat but I declined the money because I was worried it might have affected my chances of playing.

I remember the moment when I heard that Glenn had been sacked. I was in my apartment in Hounslow sitting on a window ledge when I saw it on Sky News. I called the manager to thank him and wish him all the best. The reaction in the dressing room afterwards was mixed. Some people were celebrating because of his ways but I was sad and that was known by most players. They’d come up to me and jokingly say: “Aaah Rohan, how do you feel now that your dad has left?” In football you just can’t have any emotional attachments because either you or them are going to have to leave sooner or later.