The latest in a series of profiles and interviews, Orginal Fat Bob gives his personal view on the life and career of a footballing guest, before sitting down for a chat and asking a few questions. Our Diasboro special guest this week is David ‘Hodgy’ Hodgson.
1. The Overview – the man and his career
David, James, Hodgson, known to the Boro fans as “Hodgy”, was born on the 6th August 1960 in Gateshead. He played in the Junior MFC team with his best pal Mark Proctor and is another of the lads that I used to referee for Harold Shepherson, better known to all, simply as; “Shep”.
“Shep” acted as the England trainer under Sir Alf Ramsey and was also Jack Charlton’s Assistant Manager, responsible for bringing through all the young lads and apprentices into the first team. “Hodgy” scored a lot of goals in that Boro junior forward line which also included Stan Cummins and Craig Johnson.
‘Hodgy’ and I, after being in contact for a few weeks, had arranged to meet in a little café/restaurant in Yarm on Tees, at the rear of a trendy designer clothes boutique. It’s a place that is not unfamiliar to footballers and their wives, from the current Boro first team and an ideal place to talk, prior to it getting busy for lunchtime. When he strode into the rear of the coffee shop it was like meeting an old friend, as he hasn’t changed much over the years. I hadn’t realized how tall he was, and he still looks athletic and very fit. He told me still works out and goes cycling for miles with another ex-Boro player, Steve Vickers.
We reminisced about all the great players that had emerged from that young Boro junior side that he had played with and that I had refereed at the time, Mark Proctor, Craig Johnson, himself, Graeme Hedley. We paused for a moment and I said to him,
“Do you know who I thought was going to be the best of that bunch of players and really make it to the big time?” He looked at me and without hesitation, we both said it together and laughed, sharing the knowledge. “Little Stan!”
Stan Cummins was one of the most skillful footballers we had both seen as a junior and Jack Charlton once famously said that Stan was going to be the first £1 million-pound footballer. He wasn’t of course, as that accolade went to Trevor Francis. Some people felt that after Jack had made that comment it was like a millstone around Stan’s neck.
We also agreed that Craig Johnson was also the player who was the hardest working apprentice. At that time, he played up front, alongside Hodgy, who was always shouting out “Roo pass, pass.” (CJ was known as Roo, short for Kangaroo, due to his Australian Heritage! OFB)
We talked about players that we both knew and where they were now. He mentioned that Kelham O’Hanlon our former goalkeeper, is now running a soccer academy in Atlanta Georgia USA and I told Hodgy that Kelham’s father used to be my form master at school and had taught me to swim. It’s a small world in planet Boro. Hodgy and I, when we were talking, found out that we also lived near each other when in Southern Spain, he was playing for Seville and I was working in Cadiz. We were also nearby, when we were both working in Argentina in Buenos Aires, he still in football and myself in the Oil Industry.
Hodgy played for Middlesbrough’s first team from 1978 to 1982, making 125 appearances, scoring 16 goals. His other clubs included, Liverpool from 1982 to 1984 where he made 28 appearances and scored 4 goals. During our discussions, he told me that after leaving Middlesbrough, which was his biggest regret, that another one of his greatest regrets during his playing career, was leaving Liverpool to go to Sunderland. He told me with a grin that when he was just about to leave Liverpool Joe Fagan had said to him at that time, “Go and talk to them, but don’t sign yet, come back and talk to me first.”
Hodgy ruefully smirked at me and said he didn’t do that, he just signed on the dotted line for Sunderland. He went back to Liverpool to collect his kit and belongings and Fagan called him over and angrily said to him. “Son, you’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life.” Bemused by this, Hodgy walked away, then later found out that Joe Fagan was planning to play him in the right sided midfield position, to replace the aging Sammy Lee. So, it was a missed opportunity for him to stay and be successful with a world class team.
He also played for Norwich City, Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday. His overseas career also encompassed clubs and teams in France, Japan, and Spain.
His list of achievements and trophies whilst playing for Liverpool F.C include; FA Charity Shield winner: 1982, First Division Title winner: 1982–83,1984. FA Charity Shield runner-up: 1983, 1984 and of course most notable as European Cup winners during the season 1983–84
His closest to getting a trophy at Sunderland, was when they were the Milk Cup runners-up in1984–85.
He played for England U-21s and was a member of the team that won the UEFA Under-21 Football Championship in 1982.
He was also manager of Darlington and achieved a runner up award in the Division Three final during the season 1999-2000.
He was Director of Sport at bhpsport a division of Blackett Hart & Pratt LLP after he left his post as Darlington manager in October 2006, where he was in his third spell in charge of the team. In 2004, he wrote a book titled Three Times A Quaker: My World of Football and Passion for Darlington F.C. (published by Speakeasy Publishing).
2. The Interview – a (not so quick) quick chat
OFB: What year did you join Boro as a professional footballer?
DH: I joined in 1976 as an apprentice professional.
OFB: Where did you stay? Did you rent, or did you live in digs?
DH: I stayed in the Meadhurst Hotel at Linthorpe, which was owned by the Boro, but was nearly kicked out of the club at seventeen when I trashed the room! My mum had died a sudden death at the age of 42 and I was devastated, but I didn’t grieve. Proc (Mark Proctor OFB), though everyone calls him Charlie, saw the change in my character. He arrived at the hotel one night and told me to pack my bags. He said that Micky, his mum had heard what had happened and said, “Get a bed ready in your room he’s coming to live with us.” So, he did, and I stayed there for years, even when Proc had moved out to go to Nottingham Forest. She mollycoddled me and Proc was my alarm clock, making me get up in the morning for training.
OFB: Who were your favourite Boro and Liverpool players and others that you have played with?
DH: Graeme Souness was a great player for both Middlesbrough and Liverpool. I also loved playing with Craig Johnson at Boro and then at Liverpool. Craig was nearly sold to Stoke when he was at Liverpool but overcame all his doubters through sheer hard work and became a star player. Technically the most gifted player I played with was Kenny (Now Sir Kenny! OFB) Dalgleish. He was a genius and a great guy. He once trained with me at Darlington and played in a charity game, as I say a great guy.
OFB: Who were the best and worst trainers in the team?
DH: We all had to train hard and the years between 16 and 18 were the hardest. You had to grow up at 18 and those two years meant if you didn’t work hard, you weren’t kept on at the club and you would be out of the game. At Boro and Liverpool the hardest worker was Craig Johnson he outshone everybody.
The worst trainer I shared a training session with was; Ian Rush. He hardly moved and was so poor in training that he often in winter had to be helped off the pitch, because he was so cold and hadn’t run around. Yet come match day, he was dynamite!
OFB: Who did you room with for away matches?
DH: At the Boro it was always Proc. At Liverpool it varied between; Michael Robinson, Paul Walsh and Kenny Dalgleish. For a short time, Craig Johnson roomed with me as well.
OFB: Who was the joker in the team?
DH: I’m afraid it was me!
OFB: Can you tell us any amusing anecdotes or pranks that were played?
DH: When I was at Liverpool, we went on a tour of South America and it was very hot. After one game we went back to the hotel and I was at the bar and we had to sit with a lady who was one of the organizers. I ended up pouring a bucket of ice over her and she was soaked. The lads thought it was hilarious and were grateful that we would never have to play there again as we weren’t invited back!
Another time before the 1984 world cup, we travelled to Israel to strengthen team spirit. We started playing “fizzbuzz” one night which is a drinking game. There was myself, Alan Hanson, Kenny, Bruce, Steve Nick and Ian Rush all drinking and then a fight started. Me and Rushie were good mates and it was backs to the wall. It calmed down after a while and Rushie and I went back to the hotel with Alan Kennedy, who then lay on the floor and couldn’t get up. I went to pick him up and also fell down on the floor, just as Mr Moss an old-school Liverpool Director was walking past.
“Gentlemen this is Liverpool Football Club” he frowned. I pulled myself upright by grabbing his trousers and replied close to his face. “Mossy you old bugger, you might be a Director, but I think you’re a great fella.” The next day after breakfast we were called upstairs and there was Bob Paisley and all the staff and Mr Moss waiting for us all.
Mr Moss stood up and said. “Gentlemen, I’ve been with this club for over 20 years and never witnessed anything like I saw last night. I’ve received many accolades but non-so touching as that given by David Hodgson.” Then all the coaching staff lifted the table cloth off the table to reveal- that it was piled high with beer! Bob Paisley turned to me and winked before saying: “You’re a good Geordie son, that’s what you are.”
OFB: Whose boots did you clean as an apprentice and who cleaned yours?
DH: I used to clean various boots; Jim Platt, David Armstrong, Colin Cooper.
OFB: Did you try and emulate your style of play, on any individual player who played in your position?
DH: I started out at Redheugh Boys Club who played in the Gateshead Youth League and just wanted to score goals. I moved to Boro Boys then the Juniors and still think how I nearly blew it! I never tried to be like any other player, but Bobby Murdoch was a great coach and he showed me how to turn like Kenny Dalgleish.
OFB: What was your most memorable game, your own individual performance and best experience with the fans?
DH: Boro away to Swansea in the cup in January 1981. We won 5 0 and I scored 2, we were brilliant that day. I remember I was only 19 years old and the players were saying “Just give Hodgy the Ball.”
OFB: What was your worst game or experience and why?
DH: When I played for Liverpool and we were away to Burnley. I had too many issues and my head was all over the place and I was dreadful.
OFB: Is there a game that you wished you had played in, either for Boro or another team?
DH: The European cup Final when I was at Liverpool and sat on the bench and just watched.
OFB: Who was in your opinion the best manager that Boro have ever had and why?
DH: I like Tony Pulis, he’s a throwback to the old school manager, very thorough, a straight talker and regimental. Look how he changed the way Traore plays football, to make something out of his game and give an end product. John Neal was one of the Boro’s most underrated managers. He drilled into me forty or fifty times a training session, where I needed to be and how to hit the byline and find somebody in the box. I also though Aitor Karanka would have kept Boro in the Premiership. The only game I thought was the most difficult during that season when they were outplayed, was when they played at home against Liverpool.
Jack Charlton has to be the best manager we have ever had, although I did like John Neal. I went to John’s Funeral and Proc drove me as I was ill and had a bad throat at the time. Tony McAndrew was there, and we went to support Beverly, John’s wife.
OFB: Who was in your opinion the manager that had the greatest influence on your career and why?
DH: John Neal, Bob Paisley and a special mention to Bobby Murdoch who helped me so much.
OFB: Who didn’t you like as your manager?
DH: I fell out with Joe Fagan at Liverpool and absolutely hated Lawrie McMenemy at Sunderland, I didn’t like him at all. I should have been more selfish and believed in myself as a player and stood up to them.
Yet things weren’t really all that bad at Liverpool, because after I left them for Sunderland, Roy Evans sent me a glass trophy decanter for winning the treble and they had it engraved with the message;
“Good luck you old buzzer!”
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you fear playing against?
DH: I didn’t fear anyone. I remember playing at home against Leeds and Brian Greenhaugh kicked me and I fell on my knee. I got him back though the next time we played them, two weeks later and smacked him in the ribs. I also flattened Norman Hunter once, he was surprised!
I also hated playing against Portsmouth, in particular the big centre back Steve Foster. He was all arms and legs and it was tough playing against him. He wasn’t particularly quick, but he was a real pain in the arse!
OFB: Which opposing team and which player did you like playing against?
DH: Let me say first, that when you played at home you had to play well, or you would get it in the neck from the chicken run. (Ayresome Park South Stand – I was a member OFB). So, you had to make your mark to get the praise because these guys knew their football.
I always loved playing against Spurs. When I was at Boro, I scored a hat-trick against them. I also scored against them whilst playing for Liverpool and Sunderland. I just enjoyed playing them and nobody was quicker on that pitch than me.
OFB: Who is your favourite Boro player of all time and why?
DH: Graeme Souness, he had it all. Skill, Determination, Steel, Grit and above all leadership.
OFB: Who is your current favourite Boro player and why?
DH: I like Adam Clayton, he is a steady player and very consistent. I also think Ben Gibson is great, but I do wonder that if he has to progress to the next level, whether he needs to move to another club. I would hate that if he did by the way!
OFB: Do you think Boro will get promoted?
DH: Definitely! Yes! I would put a bet on it. I would put them up against anybody in the playoffs with Tony Pulis in charge with his own team.
OFB: How do you think the match day has changed from the time that you played professional football to the present day?
DH: I don’t think it’s faster or the players are quicker, but I do think its slicker these days. The positioning of all the TV cameras, means you can see all the action and how certain players perform, so it’s better for the fans.
OFB: If you could be a fly on the wall, is there any dressing room you would wish to eavesdrop on?
DH: Over the years I have seen how Howard Wilkinson and Graeme Souness who were strict disciplinarians and knew how they wanted football to be played. I had three spells as manager of Darlington between 1995 to 2006 and I could have done better, although we did get to the Division 3 play-off final in 2003.
I also wish I could have seen how the late great Sir Bobby Robson set up his team talks. Today, I would love to hear how Mourinho goes about his pre and half-time team talks.
OFB: Do you have any regrets in your career, or missed opportunities?
DH: When I was the manager at Darlington we were playing Rochdale in the cup and I resigned at half time when things weren’t going so well. Fortunately, I saw sense and was reinstated at full time. When I left Darlington the first time I ran BHP Sports Division and went to South America and was based in Argentina. I followed the career of every under 15 male footballers in all South America. I spotted a young guy called Kenedy who went to Chelsea and was on loan at Newcastle last season. I would have stayed in South America because I loved the life style and only left because my girls had to get good schooling.
My biggest regret was that I listened to one of the Boro Directors telling me I had to leave the club to go to Liverpool because Boro needed the money. I just wanted to be happy and I was happy there at the Boro with my mates and the fans who loved me.
OFB: Do you still follow the Boro and their results
DH: Of course, I do. Why do you think I agreed to this Interview? I love everything about the club!
OFB: Whereabouts in the Country do you live these days and what do you do?
DH: I live in Denton just outside Newcastle Upon Tyne and my friend and near neighbour is Michael Dods, a leading Racehorse Trainer. (Hodgie gave me a strong tip and I put a bet on it – It came nowhere! OFB). I’ve set my two daughters who are aged in their twenties up in business. I also work as a football consultant, so I’m still involved with football.
OFB: Whom have you made a lifelong friend through football?
DH: I’ve made many: Proc, Steve Vickers who I go cycling with, Bryan Gunn the ex-Norwich City goalkeeper and Kelham O’Hanlon. There are lots more. Football, its that kind of a game, where you make so many friends. I’ve worked with Gary Gill, Gary Bennett and Colin Todd at BHP and we still keep in touch.
OFB: Finally, if you hadn’t had a professional career as a footballer, what do you think you would have as a career?
DH: Probably what I’m doing now. I use Wyscout, which is a software programme for football videos, data, statistics and tools. I analyze teams, matches and players; discover new talents. I can watch every game in the world and allocate players to leagues and see if I can interest clubs in players, or managers to clubs.
I remember a few years ago, I was at a meeting with Birmingham and Karen Brady who was the Chief Executive was there with David Sullivan the owner. They were looking for a new manager and were going to replace Trevor Francis. We were all sat in the Board Room, I suggested the name of a young guy who I thought was right for the English scene after working abroad for many years. They had never heard of him and asked for a reference from an English Manager if possible. I rang Sir Bobby Robson, explained that I needed a reference for this guy and handed the phone over to David Sullivan.
After five minutes talking, David said goodbye and turned to me. “Bobby doesn’t think he’s experienced enough.” “I don’t agree” I replied – “I think this guy, Jose Mourinho is going to be a big name!”
I now work with Base Soccer in London, which is a highly reputed agency for professional footballers. They are providing a service that is dedicated to the ongoing development and management of its clients’ careers in football and beyond. I travel two weeks in every month and go to Japan and Africa and all over the world. I really enjoy it.
OFB: A huge thank you David, for taking the time to talk to Diasboro and our readers it was a real pleasure meeting you.