Return of the Messiah with the lily-white thighs

I used to say, being silly, but meaning it, which is even sillier, that the three greatest living Englishmen were Alfred Wainwright, Paul McCartney and Glenn Hoddle. I admired the Blessed Wainwright for his seven Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells, which I consider works of art. I like how he did them, and I don't just mean the contents - hand-drawing every line, every word - but also the way he published them by himself because he couldn't trust some half-witted printer not to muck up his handiwork.

His tunes are obviously what we admire most about Paul McCartney. But I have always liked him for two other reasons: first, how he handled his relationship with John Lennon. McCartney was so often in Lennon's shadow, yet he managed to stay his own person, did not get bitter and twisted when the world at large said they preferred John - who didn't care whether he was liked or not, while Paul desperately did. And second, I liked McCartney for going on the road again with Wings. He had decided that the two things he liked best in life were being with his wife and performing. He couldn't go forward, having been a Beatle, but he was prepared to go backward, doing small gigs, taking Linda with him, knowing they would be rubbished and ridiculed.

As for Glenn, it was love at first sight. I used to arrive at White Hart Lane early, just to see him tie up his bootlaces. He never did anything awkwardly, crudely, clumsily. I can still see him, in my mind's eye, taking free kicks, narrowing his eyes, measuring the inches. His long passing was as good as Beckham's, hitting the ball 40 yards from apparently impossible positions, hedged in tightly, yet still managing to find his man. Unlike Beckham, Glenn scored lots of goals - for Spurs and England.

Hoddle had a habit of playing with his shorts pulled up high to reveal several acres of lily-white thigh - as the poet laureate might have written, if he had been any good at rhyming.

There is a present-day player who has started to display this engaging habit - Fabien Barthez. Glenn's shorts were worn high throughout a match. Barthez tends to pull up the right leg of his shorts only at moments of stress or excitement, such as when waiting for a corner, or after a goal-mouth scramble. I can't remember him doing it when he played for France. Perhaps it is a masonic signal, a coquettish gesture aimed at his girlfriend, part of a code to warn off some Asian betting syndicate, or simply because he is easing his balls, which have got caught in his jockstrap.

With Glenn, giving us the benefit of his lovely thighs was a bit girlish, which is why opposing fans, especially Arsenal's, referred to him as Glenda. He could be a bit of a big blouse, disappearing when things got tough, or pirouetting on the ball one too many times and falling over. He played for England 53 times, but I have a faint memory of him never being truly established, never demonstrating on a world stage all the talents we knew he had. Or is my memory failing? Hold on, I've found a quote from someone writing in l982 about England's World Cup chances.

"Hoddle is the player named most frequently by the other players as the player they admire. So why, at the age of 24, has he got only eight caps? Why is it still uncertain if he will make the final 11?"

Now, who wrote those words? It should say at the end of the cutting. Goodness, it was me. Have I really been chuntering on that long?

All Spurs supporters love Glenn, even those who never saw him in the flesh. It is part of the romance, the self-delusion, about our glorious past, teams filled with heroes who will return quite soon. We have only been waiting 40 years, so it must be soon.

It is ironic that Glenn's first match in charge will be the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal, the traditional rivals. Delete the word "ironic" - it's not. Football writers of a certain vintage, such as 1982, throw the word "ironic" all over the shop, when all they really mean is "interesting".

At the Arsenal v Spurs league game at Highbury - the toughest game for me every season, as I sit there, among the Arsenal season-ticket holders, trying to be invisible - the man next to me started rubbishing Glenn's management career. "Glenda's done fuck all as a manager." It's awful, the language one has to put up with at Arsenal. I said he had taken Swindon into the Premiership, got Southampton to a healthy position. "In other words, fuck all."

This is what he has been waiting for, I replied. This is Glenn's destiny. Home is the Hoddle, home from the seas. "Don't give me that Robert Louis Stevenson shit," said my educated friend. "It's players Spurs need, not poetry." How true.

Hoddle's arrival has been a triumph for the supporters. It proves that we do have power and influence, even in this money-mad, TV age. At Spurs, for 20 years they've been shouting: "OUT, OUT, OUT" - from Irving "Where's the Money" Scholar to Alan Sugar and George Graham.

Now we have our wish, our heart's desire. The person we all loved, our hero, has returned to lead us to the promised land. And I'm scared stiff. If it doesn't work this time, that's it. End of romance. No more delusions. Whom else will we have to blame? All we'll be able to shout is something you've never heard shouted at any football match anywhere: "SUPPORTERS - OUT, OUT, OUT . . . "

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 09 April 2001 issue of the New Statesman, Duel for the Tube

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Q&A: What are tax credits and how do they work?

All you need to know about the government's plan to cut tax credits.

What are tax credits?

Tax credits are payments made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support families with children, or those who are in low-paid jobs. There are two types of tax credit: the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

What are they for?

To redistribute income to those less able to get by, or to provide for their children, on what they earn.

Are they similar to tax relief?

No. They don’t have much to do with tax. They’re more of a welfare thing. You don’t need to be a taxpayer to receive tax credits. It’s just that, unlike other benefits, they are based on the tax year and paid via the tax office.

Who is eligible?

Anyone aged over 16 (for child tax credits) and over 25 (for working tax credits) who normally lives in the UK can apply for them, depending on their income, the hours they work, whether they have a disability, and whether they pay for childcare.

What are their circumstances?

The more you earn, the less you are likely to receive. Single claimants must work at least 16 hours a week. Let’s take a full-time worker: if you work at least 30 hours a week, you are generally eligible for working tax credits if you earn less than £13,253 a year (if you’re single and don’t have children), or less than £18,023 (jointly as part of a couple without children but working at least 30 hours a week).

And for families?

A family with children and an income below about £32,200 can claim child tax credit. It used to be that the more children you have, the more you are eligible to receive – but George Osborne in his most recent Budget has limited child tax credit to two children.

How much money do you receive?

Again, this depends on your circumstances. The basic payment for a single claimant, or a joint claim by a couple, of working tax credits is £1,940 for the tax year. You can then receive extra, depending on your circumstances. For example, single parents can receive up to an additional £2,010, on top of the basic £1,940 payment; people who work more than 30 hours a week can receive up to an extra £810; and disabled workers up to £2,970. The average award of tax credit is £6,340 per year. Child tax credit claimants get £545 per year as a flat payment, plus £2,780 per child.

How many people claim tax credits?

About 4.5m people – the vast majority of these people (around 4m) have children.

How much does it cost the taxpayer?

The estimation is that they will cost the government £30bn in April 2015/16. That’s around 14 per cent of the £220bn welfare budget, which the Tories have pledged to cut by £12bn.

Who introduced this system?

New Labour. Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, developed tax credits in his first term. The system as we know it was established in April 2003.

Why did they do this?

To lift working people out of poverty, and to remove the disincentives to work believed to have been inculcated by welfare. The tax credit system made it more attractive for people depending on benefits to work, and gave those in low-paid jobs a helping hand.

Did it work?

Yes. Tax credits’ biggest achievement was lifting a record number of children out of poverty since the war. The proportion of children living below the poverty line fell from 35 per cent in 1998/9 to 19 per cent in 2012/13.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a weird system in that it lets companies pay wages that are too low to live on without the state supplementing them. Many also criticise tax credits for allowing the minimum wage – also brought in by New Labour – to stagnate (ie. not keep up with the rate of inflation). David Cameron has called the system of taxing low earners and then handing them some money back via tax credits a “ridiculous merry-go-round”.

Then it’s a good thing to scrap them?

It would be fine if all those low earners and families struggling to get by would be given support in place of tax credits – a living wage, for example.

And that’s why the Tories are introducing a living wage...

That’s what they call it. But it’s not. The Chancellor announced in his most recent Budget a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, rising to £9 by 2020. He called this the “national living wage” – it’s not, because the current living wage (which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, and currently non-compulsory) is already £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Will people be better off?

No. Quite the reverse. The IFS has said this slightly higher national minimum wage will not compensate working families who will be subjected to tax credit cuts; it is arithmetically impossible. The IFS director, Paul Johnson, commented: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.” It has been calculated that 3.2m low-paid workers will have their pay packets cut by an average of £1,350 a year.

Could the government change its policy to avoid this?

The Prime Minister and his frontbenchers have been pretty stubborn about pushing on with the plan. In spite of criticism from all angles – the IFS, campaigners, Labour, The Sun – Cameron has ruled out a review of the policy in the Autumn Statement, which is on 25 November. But there is an alternative. The chair of parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee and Labour MP Frank Field has proposed what he calls a “cost neutral” tweak to the tax credit cuts.

How would this alternative work?

Currently, if your income is less than £6,420, you will receive the maximum amount of tax credits. That threshold is called the gross income threshold. Field wants to introduce a second gross income threshold of £13,100 (what you earn if you work 35 hours a week on minimum wage). Those earning a salary between those two thresholds would have their tax credits reduced at a slower rate on whatever they earn above £6,420 up to £13,100. The percentage of what you earn above the basic threshold that is deducted from your tax credits is called the taper rate, and it is currently at 41 per cent. In contrast to this plan, the Tories want to halve the income threshold to £3,850 a year and increase the taper rate to 48 per cent once you hit that threshold, which basically means you lose more tax credits, faster, the more you earn.

When will the tax credit cuts come in?

They will be imposed from April next year, barring a u-turn.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.