The Situation with Eileen

ImageIn 1996, Glenn Hoddle was made the manager of the English national football team. The most controversial aspect of his reign was the appointment of a faith healer named Eileen Drewery. Hoddle met Drewery through her daughter when he was a teenager. He had spurned her offer to heal his torn muscle, so Drewery repaired it with ‘remote access healing.’

By 1998, Drewery was made an adviser to the England squad. ‘I’m like an auntie,’ she told the press. ‘The players can come and talk to me about things they wouldn’t talk to their manager or physio about because it is personal.’ Hoddle’s unorthodox methods were unpopular with the team. ‘One of the masseurs told me Glenn had asked the staff to walk around the pitch anti-clockwise during the game against Argentina to create positive energy,’ the defender Gary Neville wrote in his memoirs. ‘Sadly, it didn’t do us much good.’ The England and Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler wrote about the experience in his wonderful 2005 autobiography.

‘For me, the worst thing was the situation with Eileen. She was a lovely woman, don’t get me wrong, and her husband Phil was a real decent fella, a down-to-earth diamond bloke. Some of the lads swore by her–people like Gareth Southgate reckoned she helped a lot. They used to run a pub in Essex, apparently, and when I went to her house to see her I spent most of the time in the back room in a bar that Phil had made in there, having a couple of beers and a chat. I got the impression he couldn’t get his head around it either. I  honestly don’t have any problems with what she did, because who am I to say whether a faith healer could help people or not? In fact, I heard stories about some amazing things that happened, that were supposed to have cured injuries and helped people get fit again….

… Anyway, it wasn’t the fact that she was available. I think that was fair enough, maybe even a good idea for the psychological effect it could have. It was more the fact that Glenn used to put players under incredible pressure to go and see her. It was made clear in no uncertain terms that if you wanted to be involved in his squads then you had to go and see her. It was ridiculous really, because everyone felt obliged to go, and not everyone could play! It was just a little bit sinister too, because I remember that even Michael Owen felt he had to go along, and he was just a tiny kid at the time, who had done nothing, not had an injury or even a drink, and there he was getting all his demons checked out. He was in there for half an hour or more, which didn’t seem right.’

Fowler: My Autobiography, Robbie Fowler, with David Maddock, Macmillan, 2005.