Anthony Hudson: The Englishman plotting England’s World Cup downfall

The Independent
The Independent

Anthony Hudson may be English, but in football terms, he’s most definitely a citizen of the world.

A short spell at Newport County aside, the assistant boss of the USA – and son of ex-Chelsea and Stoke great, Alan – Hudson’s career has taken in some of world football’s most unlikely outposts.

Now, though, he finds himself a central part of the USA’s plans as they look to shock England and navigate their way out of Group B .

Given Hudson’s global experience, he’s the perfect man to map their route to the last 16.

Having been part of the USA coaching set-up that banished memories of their failure to make it to Russia in 2018, the former New Zealand and Bahrain boss insists he won’t be experiencing any feelings of split loyalties when the USA run out against England at the Al Bayt Stadium the day after Thanksgiving. And neither will his family.

“I just had a feeling this game was going to come up,” he says. “I called my family back home and they were just going crazy. Especially with my dad having played for England, it was nice, really nice.

“Look, my old man made his debut against West Germany (in 1975), and I’ve watched that game so many times.

“He was absolutely outstanding. I’m biased obviously but I can confidently say it was one of the best debut performances I’ve ever seen.

“He was incredible. But he only got two caps. Any player at that level and with that level of talent would probably feel a bit hard done by. I think that's why they’ll all be supporting the USA.”

Although now well-established as a coach and manager, Hudson admits that the family name was more a curse than a blessing as he was making his way in the game.

After coming through the West Ham youth system and spending a brief period on loan at Luton, he eventually moved to NEC Nijmegen in the Netherlands before heading across The Pond to play for the Wilmington Hammerheads.

“I was a central midfielder - I would run around kicking people,” he laughs. “All I ever wanted to do was to be a footballer - that was my dream.

“I just wasn’t capable of dealing with the pressure that was probably self-inflicted.

"You have your circumstances but it’s what you make of it. I didn’t deal with it, my old man's name, very well – now I think there’s a lot more support to help young players. I just remember, back then, you were on your own to fend for yourself.”

His failure to make it as a player did, though, bring with it a desire to stay in the game and hastened his development as a coach.

An early stint at the Real Maryland Monarchs, and a spell working alongside Harry Redknapp at Spurs, offered a gentle introduction to the world of management.

A brutal sacking by Newport County, then in the National League, provided him with a sledgehammer reminder of football’s fragility.

Instead of licking his wounds, Hudson dusted himself off and headed to Bahrain to work with Peter Taylor, famously England manager for a solitary game. There he progressed from manager of the country’s under-23 side to head coach of the full national team in August 2013.

“As a young person and a young player, there was a constant mindset of never thinking you were as good as your dad, or thinking you were only there because of your dad,” he says. “It was an internal battle that I found very difficult.

“But because I didn’t fulfil what I wanted to do as a player, I think that gave me the drive to become the best coach I could possibly be. It became a big driver for me. As a coach, I wanted to make a name for myself in my own right.”

Having taken New Zealand to the play-off for a place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia – losing 2-0 to Peru over two legs to ultimately fall short – Hudson was handed a chance in club management with the Colorado Rapids in the MLS.

From there he graduated from coaching the USA's under-20s side to become assistant to Gregg Berhalter in the US national team.

Now he has been handed the opportunity to be the USA’s man on the inside as they look to repeat their famous World Cup over England in 1950.

A repeat of the 1-1 draw in South Africa in 2010, would probably be just as welcome.

“It’s going to be amazing,” he says. “All we’re hearing from people in the know over here, is that this is going to be one of the most widely watched games in the country’s history.

“The results haven’t been where they were before for England, and they’ve got a lot of scrutiny as a result of that. But I think it would be really stupid to even think you can downplay England.

“They have the players and the kind of quality in that team to be able to switch it on at any moment.

“Crazy things happen before tournaments – you've seen teams in the past have bad results in the run-up to the World Cup and then everything suddenly clicks. I don’t think you can read too much into England’s recent form. It’s going to be a really, really tough game.”

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