“IIt’s easy to say it was a winner. I was born a winner, wanted to win tiddlywinks against my dad at home, so I had that in me. But I think what I enjoyed the most about football was being able to express myself and being creative. From when I was a kid in the garden with my own imagination until I was playing Wembley in a cup final, that was really what I wanted to do, to create.
There aren’t many football players who can be said to be clearly associated with an idea, but Glenn Hoddle and creativity is certainly a part of it. The Spurs icon played slowly in an era of harum-scarum, he charmed the ball as others attacked him, and he did so not only deliberately but confidently, in a way that he says Brian Clough, required “moral courage”.
Hoddle speaks now after going through another period of his life that required courage: his cardiac arrest three years ago and the quadruple bypass surgery that followed. But while this life-changing event caused him to reassess some of his beliefs, he still remains as attached to others and the beautiful game is one of them.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be without football in my life,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to close the book on football. Some people say, “This is it, I’m tired of football and I don’t care if I never see another game again.” I don’t think I could do that; it has been such a part of my life, such a labor of love in so many ways. But some perceptions have changed slightly.
In October 2018, Hoddle collapsed on the set of BT Sport on his 61st birthday. The rapid intervention and CPR of sound engineer Simon Daniels saved his life, but a long period of complications ensued and it was only weeks later that he regained his confidence. in him.
“You have to realize that you are waking up in a hospital and you don’t know what happened,” Hoddle says. “Then the doctors explain what happened and what the procedure was going to take place and it was just a shock, a total shock.
“I went through so many different stages. I was not able to have my operation. I needed quadruple bypass surgery but couldn’t do it because I had done something to my lungs. I had a defibrillator in my back. The veins in my legs did not heal after the operation. There have been a multitude of things that have happened over a period of time.
“But I think I knew I would be better when I came back after the bypass surgery, that’s when they said, ‘Everything’s been fine and your heart muscle is strong. They were still a little baffled, actually, that I didn’t have major damage to my heart and this and that. So I was very lucky in many ways other than the mere presence of Simon. “
He says he’s struggling with what he sees as his debt to Daniels, with how to pay off someone who saved his life. The couple are now friends and Hoddle invited them to his home and directors’ lodge at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. He also presented a British Heart Foundation ‘Hero Award’ in honor of Daniels, but there is still some frustration. “I can do it a thousand times and it still wouldn’t be enough,” Hoddle said.
Speaking with sincerity and intensity about an issue that one can only assume doesn’t stir in the slightest bit Daniels perhaps reveals Hoddle more broadly as a man. He retains the faith he has had since the age of 28 and which proved so controversial during his tenure as England manager, which ended in February 1999. But he is someone who thinks about the feelings of others, and who speaks forcefully about what he describes as a collective “oblivion” around the effects and consequences of the pandemic.
“I think we’re forgetting what we’ve been through,” Hoddle says. “I think governments forget too. I see it now as we come back to some kind of normalcy. We have just fragmented again and come back to what we were. We have all been in the same boat whether you are in Australia, China, or America, or Europe. I think we may have missed an opportunity to come a little closer and come together a little more. “
Hoddle says he’s ambivalent about the role football played in the pandemic, providing a loophole for many but proving less important in the grand scheme of things. It also convincingly rejects the idea that gambling is now playing a bigger role in society, in people’s lives, than before.
“It’s an easy answer to say yes, but… and I’m going back to it now… if you really take all the pieces out and watch the football game in the 50s.” [through to] the ’80s when I was playing, I think it meant as much to people then as it does today.
“We’re making it flourish with media and social media and it has become more important with so many people paying exorbitant money. It’s like that in the world, it’s not just football.
“But you go back to the days and the real core of football is pretty much the same. Your seven year old will cry loudly when his team loses. That would have happened in the ’60s. The fans were there for that outing and I think there are still a lot of people watching football – and loving it – but they’re here for an outing, to go. to get lost. It is the # 1 sport in the world and when played correctly it is the most beautiful game in the world.
That word “correctly” is there for a reason and considering the way the game he looks as an expert is played, Hoddle expresses frustration with some of the elements. “The Premier League is the toughest in the world, I think it’s probably now also the best technically and the best players are here,” he said. “There are, however, a lot of games where I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s going to come back to the center-back.’ You can read what’s going to happen.
Ultimately, however, English football has come a long way to match the vision ‘Hod the God’ has always had. “I think there was a little more element of surprise in some of the games back then,” he says, “But we’ve changed technically and thank goodness really. We’ve moved on.
“We are bearing the fruits of the changes in the academies 10, 15 years ago and we are seeing a crop of footballers who can use the ball and create. It took a long time, but at the time the long ball was very successful. The ball was too high for my taste … and we had to fight against it.
BT Sport will present Glenn Hoddle: Extra Time on December 8 at 10 p.m. on BT Sport 1.