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Former Chelsea, Stoke City, Arsenal and Seattle Sounders Legend Alan Hudson talks to ZANI

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Alan Hudson burst onto the football scene aged 17 for Chelsea on 1st February 1969 at Stamford Bridge, for a home match against Southampton.

It may not have been the dream debut for the homegrown boy Hudson, as Chelsea lost five nil. Nevertheless, local lad Hudson, born 21st June 1951, and raised at the World's End Estate, off the Kings Road, within spitting distance of the legendary Shed, had arrived and a lifetime in the world of football had begun.

Hudson’s career spanned three decades, playing for Chelsea, Stoke City, Arsenal in the then Division One, before departing to the US, to play for Seattle Sounders in the now-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL), in 1979. As football (soccer as the Americans would say) fever was spreading across the States before it’s abrupt end in 1984. Hudson left the NASL in 1983, a year before the big crash, returning for a brief spell to Chelsea, even though Hudson never played one game for the Blues. So, he decided to go back to Stoke City. where the fans in the Boothen End would chant ‘Alan Hudson Walks on Water’ in the seventies. Hudson remained at Stoke City for three seasons, before hanging up his football boots in May 1986, a few weeks shy of his 34th birthday.

It wasn’t just the Stoke fans that appreciated Hudson’s natural football ability, he was admired and respected not just in the UK, but across the world. West German coach Helmut Schoen stated in 1975, after Hudson’s long-awaited debut for England at Wembley, where The Three Lions were victorious over the then World Cup Winners by two nil, ‘At last England have found a replacement for Bobby Charlton.’ Yet Hudson would only ever win two caps for Old Blighty, adding his name to a host of talented footballers from his generation who seldom played or did not play at all for England, as the national team slipped into oblivion, failing to qualify for two World Cups, 1974 and 1978. It was certainly dark days.

Hudson was known as a player with flair and flamboyance, who played the game at a faster pace, with shorter passes, as opposed to the long ball game, that many teams had adopted in England in the early 70s. Hudson, like others, knew that by passing the ball in the middle of the field with skill would, and still does, grind your opponent’s down, converse energy within your team, whilst you wait for the opening to score that crucial goal.

It has often been stated by fans and the press alike, that Chelsea’s first major trophy in Europe was down to Hudson orchestrating the midfield and attack in their replay of the Cup Winners Cup on 21st May 1971 Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus, Athens, Greece. The Blues beat Real Madrid two one, after drawing one all two days before, at the same stadium, these were days before extra time and a penalty shootout. Just for the record, Chelsea was seconds away from glory before Real Madrid equalised via Ignacio Zoco scoring in the final minute in the first game.

Despite not leading England to glory, Hudson has had an amazing career, with great games across Europe and the world against the back-drop of wine, women and song. His off the field antics are on a par of that of a rock and roll star but that is another story for a rainy day.

Recently most media coverage of Hudson has been his near-death experience when a car ran him over in London in December 1997, resulting with Hudson being in a coma for over three months. His survival of this ordeal shows that he is one of life’s fighters.

The tabloids seem to have a field day with Hudson’s former issue with drink and living off benefits, how people love to dwell on other people’s misfortunes, is it human nature or a product of modern society? I don’t know, but what I do know is that recently I have been seeing posts about Hudson or by Hudson over social media, all focusing on positive aspects of his career, along with his opinions on football. So, therefore, ZANI decided to have a chat with Hudson about his life, career, football and much more… Read on…..

ZANI - I see that you are looking for funding for a documentary about your life and career entitled Smashed! The Alan Hudson Story, how’s that going? If you don’t reach your target on Kick Starter, educated guess you will look at other avenues for finance?

Alan Hudson - I’m not sure how it's going but I hope it works out because it's quite an amazing story. The other avenue is a Sponsor which is my preference if you know anyone?

ZANI – I will look into that. I understand the title Smashed is a description of you and your life,

"Smashed it into the back of the net"
"Smashed another vodka bottle"
"Smashed by a hit and run driver"
Care to elaborate?

Alan Hudson - It was a complete coincidence that David and Martin at Silent Lake came up with Smashed because this was something that my friend George Best wrote about me to the Daily Star, saying their headlines HUDSON SMASHED was disgusting and very hurtful. I should have really taken the Daily Star to court for such a headline, but I was too focused on getting over my injuries, once I had come out of my coma in March 1998.

ZANI – I understand that, as I am fully aware of events in your life have been life-changing and threatening, this seems to be the narrative of the mainstream media when they interview or write about you, in other words focusing on the negative. Yet you have given the world of football so much, therefore I would like to focus on the positive as there are many. So, going back to the beginning, what moment, footballer player or match made you realise that football was for you?

Alan Hudson - I never truly thought I would become anything like I became, as I simply just loved playing with my mates in the schools and other playgrounds in Chelsea, Battersea and Victoria. But as a kid, I went to Wembley to watch a couple of friends play in an Amateur Cup final Hounslow v Crook Town and you might say I dreamed of playing there one day. I told my father that it was exciting, and he said, ‘You'll play there one day but it won't be in an amateur final, it will be much bigger’, he was that certain I'd make it and without him I would not have made it, he was a brilliant tutor of the game. Like my mentor Waddington at Stoke City.

ZANI – That is nice to hear, encouragement at an early age by your father. Fulham was your first choice as it was your boyhood club, but they rejected you, yet you were quickly signed to Chelsea juniors, making your senior debut aged 17. I am sure you remember that game well, even though you lost five nil to Southampton. Did you feel that it was a dream come true or you just took it in your stride knowing you would make your senior debut sooner or later?

Alan Hudson - After that 5-0 hiding, I was out for a few months back in the 'stiffs' as we called the reserves. However, out of the blue Dave Sexton threw me back in after Chelsea had a slow start in 1969/70 season. I grew into myself very slowly as I was a small kid at school and many times, like at Fulham, they said I was too small but, my father Billy Hudson, kept my hopes up by saying, ‘When you grow stronger your skill will shine through’, and he was right again. Also, I saw Alan Ball at Fulham playing for Blackpool, scoring a hat-trick and I was his size at school so I knew size meant nothing to me. Look at George, Maradona, Messi, Alan Ball himself, and Giles and Bremner all wonderfully gifted performers with great big hearts, that's what it is 'In your heart' not what size boots you wear.

A Youthful Alan Hudson

ZANI – Did you see yourself then and now as a local hero?

Alan Hudson – In a way, coming from Chelsea helped me no end, and I became the most local player of all time when putting that shirt on, still am. There will never be another Alan Hudson, born a couple of hundred yards from the Bridge, like Johan in Amsterdam, Bobby at West Ham and Charlie at Highbury.

ZANI - You, like your teammates Peter Osgood and Charlie Cooke, were, what we would call today, flair players. Yet this style of playing wasn’t welcomed with open arms in the late sixties, the seventies and even the eighties. Why do you think that was?

Alan Hudson - It was all because we were un-coachable, and managers/coaches could not handle that. They loved robotic players and that is why England suffered in the long run. Had Clough or Waddington taken the England job it would have been so different. Hence, The Mavericks coming to the fore thanks to Rob Steen writing the book but it was all far too late because those 'suits' at the FA had done so much damage by not employing the right manager.

ZANI – Can’t argue with that. Staying on the flair player subject, why was there a sudden desire from the likes of you, Osgood, Georgie Best and such like, to play football in this style, was it seeing highlights of the Brazil team winning the World Cup in 1962, or Real Madrid, Benfica or Inter Milan doing well in the European Cup? But there again overseas football coverage was minimal back then, so where did this inspiration come from?

Alan Hudson - Mine came from watching George Best, Denis Law, Johnny Haynes, Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore. I'd watch them and try to copy them or emulate them more like it. You only learn by watching your heroes. Bobby Moore was my greatest hero.

ZANI – Bobby Moore yes, a true hero. Speaking about minimum football coverage, in 1980 Italy were to play Belgium in the third-place play-off in the Euros (which was dropped some time ago). The BBC were scheduled to show the game, yet they decided to air Tommy Steele in Half A Sixpence Instead. So, I, as a schoolboy and a fan, called the BBC to complain. Can you imagine the Beeb or ITV doing that today, dropping Italy vs Belgium in favour of a Tommy Steele film?

Alan Hudson - To be perfectly honest I'd rather watch Tommy Steele than watching England. Our last great captain and world-class player was Bryan Robson and then Hoddle (pity about his management) and Gascoigne (pity about his madness, but a great lad) of course he was a genius, something you cannot coach, once again. As for TV they know nothing about football, and that's why Dancing on Ice is more popular than Match of the Day. And our ex-players don't help things on TV, all they talk about is what we already know and they treat the public like they came off the Moon and know nothing, pure ignorance. The fans are far more knowledgeable than some former players, or most, come to that.

ZANI – Yes, the ex-player pundits seldom produce a nugget of wisdom. Talking about England, you played for the England Under 23’s, you got nine caps, yet, according to some sources, you refused to go with the Under 23’s on a tournament, is that correct? What was the tournament, and did it really lead to an international ban with the senior England team?

Alan Hudson - I was banned for three years for refusing to go on an end-of-season tour because of my bad ankle injury from 1970 and needed a summer's rest but Ramsey banned me without a proper hearing. The FA again should have held a proper enquiry. Colin Todd and I were banned and we were the best young midfield player and defender around, that's why we never qualified for a World Cup in the 70s. It was criminal the way I was treated, it crucified my international career, all through one man, and all because he had won the World Cup, he could get away with anything. But it rebounded on Ramsey, but that was no good to me as the damage was done. So, I became anti-England and those that sailed with them.

Colin Todd

ZANI – I can understand that. Other players that received a handful of caps were Charlie George and Mike Summerbee and others, like one of your teammates Peter Houseman of Chelsea and George Armstrong of Arsenal, were never capped for England. Again, overlooked by the World Cup-winning manager Alf Ramsey and then his successor Don Revie.

Alan Hudson - Jimmy Greenhoff was the greatest ever player to never get a cap, and Steve Perryman led a great Spurs team with Hoddle, Hazard and Ardiles, yet couldn't get a game. I played with Steve in the Under 23s with Tony Currie in a midfield three and we were tremendous together a great blend and we slaughtered the Scots at the Baseball Ground. I played against Charlie George for West London v Islington at Highbury as 13-year-olds and could see he was going to be a superstar, but again un-coachable.

ZANI – Simple question, why didn’t Revie play those flair players after the 1974 failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Alan Hudson - Because again we couldn’t be told or wouldn't listen or play Bingo and Carpet Bowls with Revie. Can you imagine dropping Maradona or Johan Cruyff because they didn't want to play Bingo? I don't think so, only in England.

Don Revie during his spell as the England Manager

ZANI – True. Alan, it’s not just players in the seventies that were criminally overlooked, there are managers as well. The main example is Brian Clough, with him and his Nottingham Forest conquering England as well as Europe. I understand you believe World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, with Don Howe as his coach, would have been an excellent England manager.

Alan Hudson - Bobby should have been given the England job on retirement from Fulham. With Don Howe, Brian Clough or Waddington as his righthand man he would have been a success because he experienced such things at World Cup level. How England treated Bobby was shameful. He won us the 1966 World Cup for without him we would never have won it because he was an incredible captain and an inspirational leader, and Geoff Hurst would not have scored a hat-trick had it not been for Bobby. For any other defender would, like today's defenders, kicked it into the stands, not Bobby, he was masterful.

ZANI - Would you say Bobby Moore was the true leader of the great World Cup win of 1966?

Alan Hudson - Of course, he was, alongside Franz of West Germany and Johan of Holland, three incredible players and leaders.

ZANI - After Ron Greenwood, from Bobby Robson to the current England manager, Gareth Southgate, who do you reckon is the best and why?

Alan Hudson - Robson of course, because Gareth is a novice at this level. Venables, like Robson, chose the best players in 1996: Gascoigne, Sheringham and Shearer. If you pick the best players you get the best results, like Germany, Holland and Spain recently and of course 1970 Brazil, they wouldn't have been playing Bingo in Mexico.

Bobby Robson at Italia 90

ZANI - Going back to your Division One career. When Chelsea sold you in 1974, which I believe the then manager Dave Sexton was behind, did you take it on the chin, and see it as part of the course, or were you annoyed?

Alan Hudson - It was bitter sweet because after being in such a good/potentially great Chelsea team with great players I never realized I was going to meet the manager of my dreams, Mr Waddington, whom allowed me to play freely. No team talks or coaching from him, simply letting you go and express yourselves. I loved Waddington. He made me a far better player, like in the movie Jerry McGuire in the elevator, when the deaf and dumb girl signals to her boyfriend, ‘You make me complete’, that was Waddington with me, he lifted me onto another level where I was going backwards at Chelsea because of coaching and bad management. The difference was Dave was too concerned about Monday to Friday whereas Tony's only concern was on a Saturday afternoon when people had paid good money to watch us play. They're weren’t bothered about what time you went to bed on a Thursday or Friday all they were worried about was from 3pm to 4.40pm on a Saturday.

ZANI - You had two seasons at Stoke City, you just missed playing with Gordon Banks, and two seasons at Arsenal before departing for the North American Soccer League to play for Seattle Sounders and Cleveland Force. Fond memories of playing at Stoke and Arsenal or not, please don’t hold back Alan?

Alan Hudson -, Arsenal were a fantastic club and my big regret was never being fully fit there. Whereas, had Arsenal or Chelsea have had Waddington in charge we would have been a superior team and won more trophies. For instance, George Best wanted to come and play for that Chelsea team, but Sexton never could have handled him, for he had enough with what he had, whereas Waddington would have walked up the M6 to sign George the Belfast Boy and great friend. Why do you think Waddington tried to sign Osgood and Sexton wanted him out, it says it all? I helped Stoke into Europe after joining them 4th from bottom. Osgood helped Southampton win the FA Cup against Manchester United and Chelsea got relegated, Sexton got the sack. the proof is there for all to see, like with Ramsey not picking his best players and banning Colin Todd and I. At the end of the day, fans come to watch the players not the managers, like with Sinatra they pay to see his genius.

ZANI - How did North American Soccer League differ in terms of style, culture and fans? I remember everyone going crazy about the New York Cosmos back in the day, my brother even bought the top.

Alan Hudson - I never knew what to expect, because after walking out on Arsenal, nobody would touch me. But how happy I was once I had arrived in that wonderful city. The soccer was strange, my team couldn’t work out my role, as I had to tell them 'just think of me as your Quarterback' and that helped. In my first match against Tulsa I had a pain killing cortisone injection, but I didn't know that if you drew (tied) the match, even a league match, you go into overtime of 15 minutes each way. Well the injection wore off and I was in absolute agony. It hit home to me about the cortisone that evening, Marty Kushner our club doctor only injected enough into my ankle to kill the pain for 90 minutes therefore, ouch.

ZANI – Painful. After the US, you briefly returned to Chelsea, then Stoke City. I understand you are still loved by the Stoke fans. Also, I would say the fans of Chelsea still love you. Yet the media try to make out you are a villain to them for speaking your mind. As far as I know we are still allowed to air our views. I bet the fans old and young of Chelsea still shake your hand, just not the board of directors?

Alan Hudson - I was up at Stoke for Gordon Banks funeral and got a standing ovation walking into the church by those fans, and my mate could not understand what was going on. Yeah, they think I'm a God up there. They are very intelligent football fans up there with great knowledge. I put that down to Waddington educating them. As for Chelsea I really take all the fuss with a pinch of salt. What I try to get the Chelsea supporters to understand is that I look at leaving a club like leaving a wife, you move on. What Chelsea did to me was criminal. They got me for nothing and made £240,000 out of me when they didn't even make me as a player, my father did that. They cheated me out of my 15 per cent transfer fee and lied saying I asked for a move when they wanted Osgood and me out to pay for that East Stand, because they were skint. My father even told Dave Sexton when he arrived, "Don’t ever try to tell him how to play he already knows".

ZANI – As I said the board of directors, not the fans, as John King, author of The Football Factory and owner of London Books, a well-known and proud Chelsea fan, believes in you as he has re-released your autobiography in 2017, The Working Man’s Ballet in. Do you plan to pen a novel about seventies football or North American Soccer League? I am certain there is a huge market.

Alan Hudson - I have written a book about my time in Seattle but put it on the shelf because I cannot get any help from that end. I thought the club might help but it seems the clubs in the USA are now on the same wavelength as those over here.

ZANI – Your book about Seattle is worth staying with, speak to John King maybe? The title The Working Man’s Ballet is that how you see football?

Alan Hudson - Tony Waddington used that term and I titled the book in his honour. He was the greatest man, apart from Bill Hudson, I ever came across. He saved my career, much like David Goodier saved my life in 1997/98. Yeah, it’s a brilliant title but that was Tony putting great footballers to music.

ZANI - I see in the press release for Smashed! – you feel that football sold its soul, moved away from its working-class roots and betrayed the true fans, do you really feel like that?

Alan Hudson - The new game is completely different, youngsters don't understand what yesteryear was like, the pitches, balls, money everything and the clubs are run by people unlike Matthew Harding, who had his heart and soul in Stamford Bridge. I had lunch with Matthew ten days before his helicopter went down and he was devastated the way the game was going, never knowing what was in store for him. Yeah, look at West Ham United with Gold and Sullivan who only took it over because of it being the venue of the Olympic Games and it would lure tourism to the Games. With the money they have, if they loved the club, they would have spent a fortune on Upton Park, the home and heart and soul of the Hammers.

ZANI - In terms of technology, streaming and better TV coverage, means we are seeing more football from across the world on a regular basis. I watch the Bundesliga on BT Sports, and I must say the German league have an excellent infrastructure, lowcost tickets, the stadiums allow the ultras to generate passionate support with drums, banners and the odd flares. The stadiums are packed with fans and adrenaline, maybe the Premiership could follow suit?

Alan Hudson - Their football is incredible and their fans also, look at those fans at the Dortmund and Spurs match simply incredible and I love Jurgen Klopp he has it all. His personality is inspiring, unlike people like Mourinho who is only in it for one thing. The Special One has become The Boring One which is a shame because when he first came, he was a breath of fresh air, but now he's old hat. Klopp for me. You are so right about German football though and how I would have loved to have played in front of such fans, you wouldn't need to warm up, they get the adrenalin going for you.

ZANI - Winding down now, your favourite football game as a player and a fan, your favourite football player as a player and a fan, favourite football stadium as a player and a fan, Jimmy Hill or Brian Moore?

Alan Hudson - My best ever match was against Liverpool at the Victoria Ground when Waddington got the Fire Brigade in to water the pitch and I played the best 90 minutes of my life and Shankly came in and said, ‘Son, that's the greatest 90 minutes of football I've ever seen, congratulations you were fantastic’. My favourite stadium White Hart Lane because my father took me there as a nipper and every time I played there I was a different player. I won two semi-finals there for Chelsea and scored there when Stoke won for the first time in 100 years. Bobby Moore was my hero. Alan Ball the best midfield player I have played with and against. Jim Baxter as a kid for Glasgow Rangers and Johnny Haynes at Fulham. I don't like any of those people on TV, Jimmy Hill didn't like me and every time I played well with Stoke I never got a mention. Even today those former players talk a lot of kibosh, and most of them weren't any good. But I like Souness on TV, he was a great player and talks a great game, different class.

ZANI - Finally, who would you like to play you in the film of your life and why? The actor can be dead or alive.

Alan Hudson - Tough one. A young Jack Nicholson because he's both crazy and has a brilliant sense of humour, great character and he once drunk with George Best in a London club where he haunted. I think he would have been brilliant as Alan Hudson because he has class as well as, as I said, a great sense of humour. A great sense of humour got me through my year in hospital. I had a wonderful year although I was going through hell. Maybe playing against Leeds helped, the fighting was there every time I went into the Operating Theatre, which was 50 or 60 times.

Alan Hudson is certainly in a good place, proud of his achievements and contributions to the world of football and his own life, and so he should, as he has lived the dream, with a few nightmares of course, but that is the roller-coaster of life.

Hudson is intelligent, articulate, a maverick, outspoken, conscientious and witty. I am quietly confident that Smashed! The Alan Hudson Story will be made by hook or by crook, as he is the same as when he was a footballer, he knows how to orchestrate a win.

 

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Matteo Sedazzari

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