The Dugout - Hoddle: England need new Owen

Fri, 09 Dec 09:53:00 2011

Exclusive: Former England boss Glenn Hoddle has said he fears England's lack of cutting edge in front of goal could cost them at Euro 2012.

1998 England-Argentina Michael Owen - 0

Hoddle is impressed by Fabio Capello's latest crop of young players, but says there is no natural finisher who can be an heir to Michael Owen.

With Wayne Rooney suspended for the first two games, Hoddle says England will need contributions from all over the pitch if they are to hold their own in Ukraine.

Hoddle also gave an in-depth insight into his football philosophy, how the game has changed to the benefit of technical players, and the Premier League title race.

You took Michael Owen and David Beckham to the 1998 World Cup when there were questions over their maturity and readiness - how do you nurture young players and introduce them to the team without piling too much pressure on them?

I think you could add Paul Scholes to that list as well. You just have to go with talented players. Beckham, Owen and Scholes had immense talent, and there are some similarly talented young players emerging now that need to be looked at closely leading up to Euro 2012.

I wouldn't judge us too much on the Euros this time around, I think we have got some great youngsters that will really mature in the next two or three years leading into the World Cup.

If the next manager, whoever comes in, can blend those in with some experience then I think there could be a bright future.

My only problem is with the cutting edge. I don't see a young Michael Owen coming through, a real goalscorer, and that's what you need to win tournaments. Putting the ball in the back of the net is the hardest thing to do in international football and that's what we lack at the moment. I just hope for England's sake that we get goals from all over the place, particularly with Rooney unavailable for the first two games.

Although he is playing on the right for Chelsea, could Daniel Sturridge be a main striker? His goalscoring record is impressive.

Over the coming years he could mature into a main striker, but not in the next six months in time for the Euros.

I think he's a smashing player, it's great to have him in the squad and I would have had him in there some time earlier. He did enough at Bolton last year to suggest he is ahead of some of the other players in the squad, and he is only going to get better and better.

There's Jack Wilshere to come back, who's a wonderful young midfielder; there's Kyle Walker at right back, who will have an exciting battle with Glen Johnson to see who takes that position. We've got a very strong squad, and the long term is going to be bright for England.

Roy Keane has stated he thinks young players are ‘soft’; can you understand that point of view about young players in today’s game and what do you think is the effect of youngsters coming through academy systems?

I think there is a little bit of softness about the players these days. There are a lot of things about academies that are very good, but also a few things that have made players soft.

The harsh reality of a career in football is you have to be mentally strong, and there were a lot of simple things you used to have to do as an apprentice or academy player that they have taken away. I think a little bit of hardship early doors for players is a good thing. It helps instil a culture of hard work and respect towards the first-team squad, and I think that has gone a bit. It's been made a little bit easy for them.

The reality of football hasn't changed, it's as hard as ever, and you sometimes see players give in when a few things don't go their way because they are not used to adversity. Simple things like making players do jobs around the club didn't do us any harm when we were apprentices.

It made you feel closer to the club. I used to run out at White Hart Lane and I used to look up at the cockerel above the West Stand and remember when a mate and I were told to go up there and clean it. We spent five hours polishing it, and that always kept me grounded.

A decade ago players like Reyes and Veron struggled to assert themselves in the Premier League, but now the likes of Silva, Aguero and Suarez are thriving. Has English football become a friendlier environment for flair players? What has changed?

I think world football has become better for technical players, not just in England. You've got to look at how the rules of the game have changed, certainly since I was playing. It's protected the technical player without doubt.

When I went to France I was instantly man-marked at Monaco, which we didn't really do in England, and that was a new challenge for me as a player.

But I think under the rules as they are nowadays you can't really man-to-man mark anyone - so we see likes of Messi and Ronaldo running riot these days. They are fantastic players, but it's hard to compare with Diego Maradona because he was man-for-man marked in every game, and it was very difficult for him. There were a lot of dreadful fouls and refs wouldn't even think of getting a card out.

Also one of the greatest things now in England is the state of the pitches. When you're playing on pitches that are like carpets, technical players will come to the top. I think English coaches and managers have to get away from looking at a players' physique. The power and size of players was important in the 70s, 80s and 90s because by this stage of the season pitches were very heavy and you would out-power people who were quite small.

But nowadays small, technical players can thrive year-round and that's where we have to set our sights. We need to look at kids who have talent on the ball. In my academy I am picking up loads of players that clubs have said are too small. But now, with these pitches and rules, I think that's a massive mistake.

A survey last season said that Barcelona had the smallest average height of all the top-flight club sides in Europe - does that illustrate your point?

At the very top, I think there has always been room for smaller players with exceptional ability. Right from the days of Billy Bremner and Johnny Giles, Alan Ball and people like that. But lower down there is so much talent that is wasted and not allowed to flourish because players are too small and not strong enough - they are not even given a chance to develop. That's the key for me. The Spanish have never thrown out young players who are of good quality. In La Liga there are plenty of small teams, not just Barcelona.

Yes, if you're six-foot-two, strong as an ox and have ability, then you get the best of both worlds. But in this country technical players now have a chance to blossom for the reasons I have said. We used to have to run through the pitch in my time, whereas now you can run over the top of the pitch and that's a much easier thing to do.

I think there's actually a third reason why things have improved for technical players, and that's the backpass rule. I think it has stretched the game. In the 70s and 80s, if the keeper held the ball teams that weren't technically good could deny you space. The back four would squeeze all the way up to the halfway line and you'd be playing in a 40-by-40-yard area.

Nowadays if keepers have to distribute quicker, it stretches the pitch and allows technical players more space.

Have we become more appreciative of flair players as a nation? Maybe 10 years ago someone like Van der Vaart or Nani would be dismissed as a ‘luxury’?

After playing both in England and abroad, hearing that word 'luxury' does make me laugh and it always has done. I used to get called a luxury player, and it made me chuckle because I would look around at the average player in the Football League and see where the luxuries really were. A luxury player is one who can't control the ball see a pass or produce any quality- I'd call it a luxury if you can afford to carry one of those in your team. My mindset was different from the norm.

The types of player you mentioned are coming into this country because they are allowed to play now. They are enjoying their football and the best ones are changing the way we are playing in the Premier League.

Of course the problem the England team faces is that teams are being filled with average foreign players, and that's a worry - but in terms of the truly exceptional ones they have had a tremendously positive impact.

Which players in particular have stood out this season?

David Silva is top of my list. The thing anyone wanting to make it a professional needs to remember is it's about how you see a picture, and this lad sees it quicker than anyone else. He sees everyone on the pitch, and he's got the ability with it to pick people out. You just can't defend against that. He hurts the opposition with the ball and has really stood out for me.

Your former club Tottenham have made a very strong start to the season – do you think they can compete for the Premier League title as Harry Redknapp has stated?

I really think they can. I've been saying for the last two seasons that Spurs have as strong a squad as anyone except now Manchester City. They've got depth that matches Arsenal, Chelsea and maybe even Man United. The fact they kept Modric, built on the side they had, and now have the likes of Defoe who can come off the bench and make an impact, that's a wonderful asset to have.

I genuinely feel this year there are up to six teams that will be battling it out - this will be the most exciting Premier League for some time. It may well be that with six games to go there are three or four in contention for the title and Spurs can be one of those.

They have the ability to do that, and the key for me is in their central defensive partnership. If Ledley King can stay fit and Dawson can get back quickly from his injury, that would be a huge boost.

They've also got some good youngsters including Kyle Walker, there's Gareth Bale coming back into form and Adebayor putting the ball in the net. It's a lovely balance. They'll be in the mix.

City haven't done it before and will hit a wobble, and the others up there have not been as consistent as in previous years.

You were a young manager of just 36 when you were appointed Chelsea manager and that is the case now at the club. How difficult is it for a new manager to make changes to a team when he comes under pressure so quickly in his reign?

Andre Villas-Boas is a young manager and though he's had success in Portugal, it was very quick success and he's gone to Chelsea straight away. When I was at Chelsea the foundations were being built. Now the house has been built and it is starting to come down again with an ageing squad. So whoever comes in now is expected to pick the reins up quickly and provide instant success.

It's a bit unfair on the manager, but I'm sure he would have expected it going into the job so it won't be a surprise. It's now that he's going to learn a lot about his management skills, over the next five or six games. Chelsea are still a very good side and I expect them to be in the hunt for trophies.

Glenn Hoddle was speaking to Yahoo!'s 'The Dugout' through its partnership with the League Managers Association