NEW: ANTHONY HUDSON INTERVIEW!
Anthony Hudson, who���s 32, is the manager of Bahrain. He was formerly manager of Bahrain under-23s, Newport County, and Real Maryland in the United States. Here, he talks about life in the Gulf, his famous surname, and why British coaches should swap TalkSport for a Spanish CD�����������
Getting a job as an insurance broker was the best thing that happened to me. I was in my early 20s, and I’d fallen out of love with football. As a teenager, I’d been a West Ham apprentice for two years, and then I moved to Luton. They went into administration after I signed, so I went on trial in Holland, and signed a two-year contract with NEC Nejmigen in the Eredivisie. But I never got going.
I lasted six or seven months in Holland. I made a bad start, got injured, and my dad (former Chelsea and England player Alan Hudson) had gone into hospital. I always carried the name on my shoulders, to be honest. I’d think “I’m only here because of my dad” or “I’ll never be as good as my dad”. When I left Holland, I was a young boy, fearful, and I didn’t know how to cope. So I ran away. And that’s when I took the job as an insurance broker with Lloyds of London. It bored the life out of me.
When I stopped playing, I soon realised how much I missed it. I started doing my coaching badges, and I made a decision. As a player, I didn���t fully commit; as a coach, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. I worked with the kids at Leyton Orient, and then I moved to the US. I had some contacts there, and I knew it was a good place to get a job in senior football at a young age. I worked for an academy, then became coach at a second division club called Wilmington Hammerheads.
It was a great club. The head coach was a guy called David Irving, who played in England in the 1970s, and he let me run all the sessions. It was full-time, and it was my first experience of working with senior players, day in, day out. After two years, a management job came up in the same league. It was a new team called Real Maryland Monarchs. In their first season, they’d finished bottom.
The owners were Spanish-speaking, and so were most of the players. It was a Latin American area, so I started taking Spanish lessons. I still take them now ��� in fact, I had one this morning, Spanish and French, as I took up French a few months ago. You can’t expect to work in England: fewer and fewer English managers are being considered for top jobs, let alone getting them. So you need more feathers in your cap. That includes having another one or two big languages.
When I did my UEFA Pro Licence in England, we had a talk from a very abrasive guy. He was business-like, in-your-face, and he kept saying: “You need to learn languages”. At one point, he said: ���Stop listening to TalkSport, and stick in a Spanish CD”. He was blunt, but he was right. And yet the coaches were offended! They started arguing with him, saying he was wrong. I couldn’t believe it.
Harry Redknapp has been brilliant to me. When I was in America, every off-season I’d come back to England, hire a car, drive to all the clubs, and watch training. I’d always see Harry, as I knew him from my West Ham days. One year, I said: “I want to get a job in England, a Conference job or something lower league, can you help me?” He said: “Of course I can help you – why not get a job here while you�������������re looking?” So I finished my job in the US, and came to work for Spurs.
I set myself a target: six months to get a manager’s job. Everyone says “no chance, you’re too young, you’ve got no experience�����. So it was a case of banging on doors, doing some press, and going to lots of games. I’d work with the Spurs developmental side on a Tuesday morning, then on Tuesday night I���d go to – say – Havant and Waterlooville. On my days off, I’d go to Dagenham, as Harry had put me in touch with John Still. I was trying to learn; trying to get my name out there.
When the Newport job came up towards the end of 2011/12, I felt I was well-equipped. I went through three or four interviews, and I thought “I can do something here”. It was a great club with fantastic support. But we had a bad start to the 2012/13 season. The crowds were falling, and it got to the point where, if they didn’t pick up by November or December, we’d have problems paying the players. The board thought the best way to get a lift was to change the manager.
As a young manager, I tried too hard to prove myself. I did far too much screaming and shouting, letting people know I was a good coach. For example, in pre-season, Harry came to the Celtic Manor, we played golf with the directors, he said some nice things to the press. But it made expectations sky-high. Next time, I won���t try to show I’m a great manager. I’ll just do my job.
The Bahrain under-23 job came through Peter Taylor. I knew him through Newport, through John Still, and from going to games. When he took over the Bahrain seniors, he asked if I was interested in taking the youth job. He was great to work with ����� a top manager and a really, really good man.
When Peter left Bahrain in 2012, my bags were packed as well. But because my team were slightly separate, they decided to keep me on. They brought in the former Argentina player, Gabriel Calderon, as manager. He had a Spanish-speaking staff, so it could have been tricky, had I not known Spanish. As it was, I could have a laugh and a joke, open up, tell them about the family.
When Calderon left in August 2013, I was offered the senior job. I’d had some success with the under-age teams ��� we reached the under-19 Gulf Cup final, which we’d never done before, and we won the under-23 Gulf Cup, which was huge. The Gulf Cup is massive here, second only to qualifying for the World Cup. After we won, we were invited to the King’s Palace. He was at the front, shouting: “Where���s the captain! Get the captain to sit with me!” It was a brilliant experience.
Is qualifying for the World Cup realistic? Definitely. We’ve been minutes away, losing in play-offs to Trinidad and Tobago (2006) and New Zealand (2010). Our first target is to beat our highest finish in the Asian Cup, which is fourth. That���s a year from now, and the next year it���������s World Cup qualifiers.
In the last tournament we played – the West Asian championships ��� we came third without scoring a goal. In our group – us, Iraq, and Oman ��� all the games were 0-0 draws. But we weren’t defensive ��� we played some brilliant stuff. They drew lots to see who went through, and luckily, we came out. We got knocked out in the semi finals by Jordan, but if our strikers hadn���t been injured, we���d have won it. We came home, and everyone at the airport was saying �����We played tika taka! We were so good!”
When I was in America, every other week I’d send letters to every club in England. I was trying to get a job; trying to get known. I knew they’d chuck my CV straight in the bin, but at least they’d see my name as they were doing it. I���ve since visited clubs across England and Europe, seeing how other people work. I went to Madrid to see Jose Mourinho coach: he was one of the best I’ve seen on the pitch, and pure class off it. Really welcoming and down-to-earth. He left a big impression.
I�����m not a huge social person. I live in a beautiful place by the sea, but I’ve been here two years and people still can’t believe I haven’t seen this place or that place. I’m a bit boring, but it’s all about the football. I wouldn’t say I’m studious, but I’m always looking to learn: watching other people���s sessions, going on the internet, editing clips. Was I good at school? Not at all. I couldn���t wait to leave.
There’s a not a day goes by that I don’t dream about being in the Premier League or the Champions League. But for the moment, I’m focusing on the Asian Cup, and qualifying for the next World Cup. I’m not looking at anything else. It’s been a brilliant journey so far, and I’ve a lot to be grateful for.
Interview by @owenamos for britishcoachesabroad.com