I never thought ..

I never thought that l would see the year change to 21, although l might be better saying that it was several others who wouldn’t see me not only living but going from the Intensive Trauma Unit to Majorca, Famagusta in northern Cyprus and back to Seattle to see some very friendly faces with my great mate Tony Millard – although heartbreaking for me – then to be a surprise guest in Phoenix, Arizona for Johnny Fennell’s eightieth birthday, John being an old friend of my father, uncle George and Peter Millard to name just three of those Worlds End characters and recently visiting Egypt and Gran Canaria with my long time pal Donald Shanks.I used to really love visiting Majorca and planned to have a month alone and on the day l went straight from London Airport into the Operating Theatre at the Royal London Hospital a few minutes from that spot in the Whitechapel Road where it so nearly all ended.

The ‘nearly’ being something l wake up with every day with the reminders far too obvious to mention. The strangest thing is going to bed and trying to sleep is as difficult as getting up to see what kind of state my body is in?I start today this way as l take myself back to the many memories where my Chelsea experience all started under Tommy Docherty, who sadly left us yesterday at the ripe old age of ninety-two.When you lose a loved one or very close friend you take it badly before finally coming to terms with it and opening your heart up to all the good times and funny experiences concerning that person – and Mr Docherty or ‘Tommy the Tyke’ as he was known when l first come across my first ever boss in 1964 – was much like the Bernard Manning of football.Football to Tommy was much more than a job to him, it was like a playground and boy did he make everything fun, the kind of fun where there was always danger like one of his famous tackles as a player with Preston, Arsenal and Chelsea before he handed that over to Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris who you might calll his personal prodige much like the other side of the game with me and Waddington – which was one where we would learn our trade avoiding such opponents.

Two entirely different characters with two entirely different views on both football and life itself, though both very amusing with glass in hand.So NYD we lift that glass to Tommy who was so very important in my coming through those early days when receiving my first serious injury – by putting me on dressing room duty for the last six months of my apprenticeship.His handling of this was as important as my main man bringing in the Stoke-on-Trent Fire Brigade to water that Victoria Ground nightmare of a pitch for me to give my greatest ever ninety minutes of the Beautiful Game, which was why he named it The Working Man’s Ballet, the title of my first book.Mr Tony Waddington and Mr Tommy Docherty would have been the perfect choice for either the Jekyll and Hyde or Odd Couple movies.Both great managers for totally different reasons but both had a great eye for a great footballer and deep inside two mysteriously types of humour.But it was Tommy that my father chose to become my manager when the man was building a team l believed would, or just might have had Liverpool wobbling off their perch in the mid 60s, such did he collect a young bunch of players that looked like taking over before Tommy did something that he was even better at – rocking the steadiest boat in the calmest of waters.

Tommy had an uncanny knack of putting together bunch of people who provided some great talent both sides of Watford Gap. The Chelsea Football Club manager had a conveyor belt of youngsters which actually seemed to stop once leaving.I say that because l remain the most local player in the history of the club yet nobody knows more than me that the area surrounding Stamford Bridge from Chelsea to Fulham was rife with soccer talent both before and after me. It continues to astound me that the subject has never ever been addressed.Tommy made headlines on both the back and front pages of the nationals wherever he went and again most of it had a constant irony about it.Wine, some and song springs to mind outside of building a terrific team one l remember going to Anfield in the FA Cup and winning in some style.This was the game that caught my imagination at a time winning on the red side of Merseyside in such a big match something unthinkable.As a young 15-year-old youth team player, as captain, l built up a terrific relationship with his son Michael both on and off the playing field and l was quite upset when Tommy sent Michael to Burnley to further his education – an issue he might have thought would become a problem to his young son.Tommy brought me into the first team squad for an European Cup match at Greenock Morton after we had won the first leg at home and saw it as a great experience for young Hudson.

He had great forward thinking in the game which made his quite bizarre way of both managing and living.I also remember him taking me and Peter Osgood to a luncheon along the River Thames which was in honour of Mark Spitz not long after this incredible seven gold medal haul in Munich. He was what you might call – among many things – the very first football maverick in management.I do know that had his book been written one of true honesty from page to page it would be one you wouldn’t put down.He once said that the first time he set eyes on me he saw a replacement for a very young Terry Venables, something we’ll never know to be true or not, but all l know he knew that my father was right in thinking l was a certainty to go all the way.The last time l saw him was at Haydock Park with his great friend Dave Mackay.l was downstairs with my friend Johnny Gidman on hearing “Tommy was up in one of the boxes” and that was it.After being at Stoke City since January to May when we lost only two of twenty three matches the second last match was memorable, no, incredible.

When l signed from Chelsea my new club were fourth from the bottom and l was although a record transfer my form was the worst of my short life. In my first season we, Chelsea, had won the FA Cup and followed that up by becoming the first Chelsea team to win a European trophy by beating Real Madrid in that Athens final replay, which meant we had broken new ground twice in twelve months. You know by now my ankle injury had cost me a place in both FA Cup finals and a place in the World Cup squad in Mexico ’70.My game was slowly going downhill because l could no longer play on hard surfaces. I could actually play on rain soaked pitches or if you like your horse racing you might know the term HEAVY or SOFT TO HEAVY which what l had become, no not a horse, but only being able to perform on those surface s.This led to my drinking heavily for completely different reasons instead of drinking for the joy and happiness of being injury free and playing to the best of his ability.By the time l had played in the Football League Cup final losing to Stoke City in 1972 and being banned by Alf Ramsey and the FA for three long years l was now not only drinking heavily but depressed and playing as badly as l had never done before. I was like an out-of-control runaway train when Tony Waddington put both his and my neck on the line but here we were twenty-one matches in and looking at qualifying for the UEFA Cup.Along the way to Stamford Bridge for our last away match of the 1974/75 season we had broken Leeds United’s fantastic attempt to break the 29 match unbeaten run after being two down, by winning 3-2, beating Chelsea at home and now travelling there to repeat the feat which we did when l struck a superb half volley into the goal under where Matthew sitting in the North Stand.

That was on the Saturday Denis Law scored against his old club also, only the back heel he scored for Manchester City against Manchester United relegated them, and in 48 hours time they were coming to the Victoria Ground for their last match – and their manager was Tommy Docherty.I can tell you quite honestly l never knew because l was on such a high it was like a dream l had in my 59 day coma, and l can promise you l had some quite weird, bizarre and scary dreams, hallucinations or whatever drug l was on. David Goodier had saved both my legs and my life in 1997/98 whereas I had come from Tommy Docherty in 1964 to Tony Waddington ten years later and on a day like this, the opening day of every year since missing that Christmas and New Year’s Day of 1998 this is all l think of for those twenty four hours.I did take just over an hour off to witness Jack Grealish put on another scintillating display against Manchester United tonight.I think by doing so against such a star studded opposition say from home finally tells all his knockers out there, as Jimmy Hoffa said to Tony Pro: “You People!”

Alan