I preferred the Stars

Friday 12 March 21: I am one always questioned about certain aspects of both my life and my football, and there is no question had Mr. Frank Edwards, the Stoke City chairman, had not have passed away on that fateful day in the mid-eighties I would be speaking from a much higher perch. It was no secret that the Victoria Ground was the place I would have loved to have began my managerial stint, and unlike the many managers who have come and gone, and those who I was fortunate and unfortunate to played under I think I learned enough about such things to have made a great fist of a job that has become rather like preparing an individual to follow those others to the Moon. I look at it a very different way, I preferred the Stars. Some might not have been quite that at the beginning but that is what I see as the job of management, improving average players into good players, good players into great players and great players beyond their wildest dreams. Jack Grealish would have been my first signing and had my dear friend Tommy Wisbey, that modern day Robin Hood, and Great Train Robber been alive at such a time, I might have had to turn to him for the finance – call him a sponsor? The wonderful thing about those in my life I have such great love for, Tommy would have seen pulling off The Crime of the Century – Even Supertramp brought it out as an album and what listening – as more a motivational and inspirational exercise than what the likes of Profumo and his sidekicks saw as their perfect way of replacing their scandal on the front pages of all of our national newspapers. The only difference with Tommy Wisbey I would have had to have sat down with him and Tony Waddington and talked him into investing with Stoke City instead of Arsenal, his love. However close Tommy and I became and I know I’d have got the cash in the end, Waddington would have ben what they call today “the agent” or “the broker” such was his wisdom beyond belief in all matters. If he could talk his chairman, Mr. Albert Henshall, into forking out a record fee for a broken down 23-year-old so-called alcoholic (Richard Attenborough’s words) then he could get enough money to fly that rocket to the stars. I don’t think Pope Paul knew who he was dealing with in 1971/72 at the Vatican, because Tony never dressed like the norm, one of those that stood out in a crowd wearing everything but a sticker on their forehead. Tony was simply Tony, which reminds me of an album I once had of Miss Barbra Streisand called Simply Barbra, nothing more, nothing less. And the simplicity plays such a big part in all of this and with Jack Grealish it is his manager that has used just that one word to fly Jack to the heights he would not have reached elsewhere. Like us in the 50s, 60s and 70s he was seen as some kind of cardboard character trying to make a name for himself Flash Gordon was now Jack the Lad, not uncommon in my part of the world in those wonderfully heady days of the Swinging Sixties when even Adam Faith, as Budgie, stood ten feet tall, and he could merely reach the doorknob. I am looking forward to visit the Potteries to see a few old faces, hopefully after 12 April, and remind myself of such great days under Waddington and after discussing that mid-70s team with Robo about his new assignment on that subject, I would, if I were him, talk to those who watched that very, very good team and ask them the million dollar question, “Would Waddington have bought Grealish had he been manager of Stoke City or Manchester United today?” I mention those two clubs because I know for absolute certain, having experienced Tony and Sir Matt first hand, that like myself, Tony was far too unselfish and loyal for his own good. He should have taken the Manchester United job when offered him, as was the Leeds United job after Revie, ouch!
I have only been awake a few minutes when starting writing, and as I have poured my second black coffee I ask myself after a night of rather broken slumber my first thought was to look at the Sporting Life site and after seeing what you are about to read, Tony jumps straight to the front of my thinking. I cast my mind back to that telephone call in early 2001 from Frank Lampard Senior asking my advice on his son leaving West Ham United and thinking of joining Leeds United. I was sitting in these same buildings in my mothers flat, when I told him, ‘If Frank has the ambition that I know he has, he MUST join Chelsea, he would be stupid not to as their players, his East End pals, are fighting outside Night Clubs in Leeds Town Centre while Chelsea are fighting to become Europe’s elite clubs, even though Roman Abramovich was still an unknown entity – exactly what he is – at that time. Why I bring this up is although I have seen Frank on several occasions, and wrote to him at Derby County without reply, is had his father had made a similar call to me when leaving Derby County for Stamford Bridge for more advice his son would still be in Chelsea’s hot-seat because my words, of ‘Whatever you do Frank, make sure Jack Grealish goes nowhere else but Chelsea, you MUST build Chelsea Football Club around this young man.’ I only use hindsight in gambling and romantic matters but when it comes to football I only know one way, with absolutely no distractions and my track record playing for England is untouchable Played 2 Won 2 For 7 Against 0 and my advice to two players were Frank Lampard going to Chelsea when his future was on a tightrope and and before that my first piece of advice was to Steve Bould at Stoke City when he walked into my pub one early Saturday evening, after a match to tell me he looked like signing for Everton. That also was a ‘no-no’ as I had seen Stewart Houston, an old Chelsea team-mate, at the Victoria Ground scouting for George Graham as he was eyeing up Lee Dixon, a typical Graham full-back, and I told Stewart, ‘Tell George if he signs Steve Bould he’d be buying the best central defender in the country’ and the only time I had a disagreement with Mr. Waddington was over the same player, as my words differed with ‘If he plays centre-back and moves on he’ll play for England’ and Tony said, “Alan, I think you are just saying that because he is one of your drinking clan?” I can proudly say Alan Hudson 1 Tony Waddington 0 and not many, if any, can boast that?
The moral of this story is if you get great advice when your next in a position of self doubt go back to that same source.
This was written on the Sporting Life site on 5 March and has been republished: His absence is headline-worthy. However, when he wasn’t on the team sheet a week earlier at home to Leicester, a match Villa lost 2-1, it garnered far more attention for reasons off the pitch than on it.

Villa were concerned that players and staff removed him from their fantasy football team after an injury in training last week, leaking vital information to their opponents as a result.

Boss Dean Smith has continued to play his cards remarkably close to his chest when addressing Grealish’s injury, even going as far to refuse to reveal its very nature. As a result, no one quite knows when he’ll be back. The controversy has made one thing abundantly clear. The list of people who want a healthy Grealish in their team is understandably long – in fantasy and reality.
Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, José Mourinho, Brendan Rodgers, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Mikel Arteta and many more have waxed lyrical about the 25-year-old this season. The underlying numbers wholeheartedly support their message.

In the 2018-19 season in the Sky Bet Championship, Grealish’s lengthy spell on the sidelines with a shin injury almost derailed Villa’s bid to return to the Premier League after a three-year absence. During his three months out of the line-up, Villa won just two out of 13 league games, drawing seven and losing four, picking up 13 points from a possible 39. His return coincided with 10 straight Villa wins, starting with a 4-0 thumping of Derby – Grealish played in nine of them and was rested for one – as they marched into the play-offs from a position of mid-table mediocrity. Not only are Villa thriving in the top-flight because of Grealish, not only did they survive last season due in a large part to him – but, without him, they simply wouldn’t even have got back there in the first place.
It’s obvious that his absence hurts Villa severely. What is less obvious, however, is that every team on the planet would miss the output Jack Grealish provides.

With football in the exact position as the Seventies, with those such as Jack seen as a Maverick rather than the preferred robot, we will see history repeat itself. I thought with it being Lockdown Season watching Gareth Southgate sitting in empty stadiums all alone with his face mask on I expect a UFO to slowly come down pull him into the ship and take him away, and in doing so put a Waddington, Clough, Nicholson, Mee, Catterick, Cullis or Mercer in his seat without the mask – all Englishman who created greatness within their teams. Talking of Cullis he had the very first modern day Maverick of my time – following Len Shackleton – in Peter Knowles, who incredibly gave up the game to become a Jehova Witness, something today I don’t see Jack becoming, especially knocking on doors with his socks down, a beaming smile on his face and a bible in hand, could you?