Hoddle's "Rejects United" taking Spanish third division by storm
Published 23:00 08/10/10 By Simon Bird
Turn up to watch Jerez Industrial in the Spanish third division and you would be forgiven for doing a double take at the team sheet.
In goal, Billy Lumley once of Wolves’ youth team. Full-back Daniel Spence, rejected by Reading. Midfielder Matthew Richards, winger Nathan Woolfe who started out at Bolton. Adriano Moke, formerly on Nottingham Forest books.
All but two of the team is English or Irish. Rejects of our system, trying to relaunch careers on an unusual stage.
In the stands overseeing the team is former England boss Glenn Hoddle. Nigel Spackman, Graham Rix and Dave Beasant take turns on the touchline.
Hoddle is at the centre of a pioneering experiment that gives a fresh chance to a handful of teenage casualties of our youth system, and provides the Spanish lower league with a fascinating English dimension.
The young lads, who during the week train at the Glenn Hoddle Academy, have just battled out a feisty 3-3 draw against Ayamonte, another small step in their education. Hoddle provides the players for Jerez Industrial, a small outfit in the sherry making lands of Andalucia, and picks the team. The club benefits from getting an entire playing staff for free.
Hoddle takes English lads who were kicked out of the game at 18 and gives them a second chance. The hope is they will develop with twice-daily coaching in a beautiful sunny climate, and win professional contracts around Europe.
For the first couple of years Hoddle worked on his squad, they played friendly games to showcase players to scouts. The most notable success so far has been Ikechi Anya, who landed a two-year deal at Sevilla, and is now on loan at Celta Vigo.
But this season is different. Hoddle helped rescue Jerez. They were about to fold in July, when the former Spurs and Chelsea boss offered to provide a 22-man squad from his academy free of charge, ready for league action.
And six games into the season, the Brits of Jerez Industrial are fifth in the league, with promotion the aim.
Hoddle could probably find easier ways to make a living. He has had 26 job offers in the last three years, but is committed to the project he dreamed up as a boss in the 1990s charges with the “horrible” task of telling teenagers they were not going to be kept on.
He said: “We basically saved Jerez from going under. Financially helped them out. And we have filled their squad so they don’t have to pay them contracts.
“It’s a cheap way for them to survive, and it’s a good way for us to play competitive football.
“How have the locals taken to having a bunch Englishmen playing for their team? Very well. When we first arrived they had a reception for us. They made it known they were grateful.
“It’s been very positive. Lots of people come up to us to say they are pleased we have kept the right habits on the pitch. We are playing in a technical way. They are impressed at how we pass the ball.
“I think they have this idea abroad of English football being direct all the time. It’s not true 100 per cent, and has been in people’s minds for years. We try to play from the back and have started well. We’ve two Spanish players. The other 20 are English or Irish.
“I have to protect the development of my lads rather than get carried away winning football matches.
“I’m overseeing everything. They have a manager who we work with through the week. I pick the team, but I’m not on the bench. We look at the group in the week, and work out the team.
“We don’t own the club. It’s a showcase, a competitive game at the end of the week, the icing on the cake.”
He set up the Glenn Hoddle Academy, a live-in base at the Montecastillo Resort in June 2008. He explained: “The first seed of the academy was in the early 90s.
“As a manager I kept having to do this horrible thing – telling 18 and 19 year olds they’re not going to be signed on. It happened every year and it was then that I thought it was far to young to judge these lads, they were still maturing.
“Football is a harsh world and you have to grow up quickly. It is OK for the likes of Rooney, Owen and Ferdinand, who will be fast-tracked, and rightly so because they are special players. But there are a lot of players who I felt needed more time, and that football would lose some talent at these ages.
“I always thought one day I would try and do something about that. It took 18 months to put together. It was right for me and for English football.”
Hoddle’s managerial CV surely means he could land a cushier job elsewhere. He has bossed Swindon, Chelsea, England, Southampton, Spurs and most recently Wolves, four years ago.
He added: “I didn’t do this to replace management. I feel it’s right for me at the moment. We’re opening a second academy in South Africa. I spoke at SoccerEx and have expressions of interest from 62 countries. We’ve 2,000 kids on our website asking for trials. It’s changing people’s lives.
“For me doing that’s more important than winning medals and cups.
“I’ve had lots of offers in the couple of years we’ve been doing this. But I owe it to myself and the hard work the staff have put in to stay and do this. I feel very fulfilled at the moment.
“You couldn’t do this and a club job together. An international job yes. If in 18 months’ time I think I could go back and work, if the offer was there, do an international job.”
So Hoddle’s will continue on his mission abroad? “The first five games with Jerez were been like a pre-season for us. We are doing OK.
“The main thing is the way we play. They have a Spanish coach and assistant. We have Rix, Spackman and Beasant who rotate and go on the bench for two games at a time. I oversee it all in the stand. It’s a great experiment.
“I think we’ve hit on something. I can see how this blueprint helps a club. It’s thrown up a few positives and I bet people are looking at it and thinking this could work.
“We can’t get all the lads back into the game. We’ve said that to them. We can’t guarantee it. But we can guarantee they will improve.”