ALAN HUDSON was one of those naturally gifted and endlessly flamboyant entertainers that you couldn’t really avoid in the 1970s.
Starring alongside the likes of fellow mavericks Peter Osgood and Charlie Cooke in the successful Chelsea side of the early 1970s, Hudson’s elegance in midfield always caught the eye.
He enjoyed a 16-year career also playing for Stoke, Arsenal and Seattle Sounders in the North American Soccer League.
Despite his undoubted talents, however, Hudson only won two caps for England, thanks largely to his refusal to travel on an Under-23 tour and irreconcilable differences with then national manager Don Revie.
But while his life on the pitch was one thing, his life off it was another thing entirely.
It was almost inevitable that Alan Hudson would play for Chelsea…
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Despite growing up as a Fulham fan that wanted to “pass like Johnny Haynes and finish like Jimmy Greaves”, Hudson’s childhood home in Upcerne Road was less than a two-minute walk to Stamford Bridge and when the Cottagers turned him down there was only one other place to go.
“I’m the most local lad they’ve had in their history,” he said with some justification.
He got lucky with his Chelsea debut…
At the age of 16, Hudson was all set to become Chelsea’s youngest ever first-team player only for an injury to scupper his chances.
But nine months later, in February 1969, he did make his debut as Chelsea were trounced 5-0 by Southampton.
He had teammates Tommy Baldwin, Charlie Cooke and Johnny Boyle to thank for his promotion, though, as the trio had been caught drinking in Barbarellas the night before the game and were duly dropped by manager Dave Sexton.
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There’ll be more on the drinking later…
He only had a single winners’ medal to show for his efforts…
He didn’t have much luck when it came to picking up trophies.
Though he played in every round of the 1970 FA Cup he missed out on Chelsea’s win over Leeds United because of injury.
He also picked up runners-up medals in the 1978 FA Cup when his Arsenal side lost to Ipswich and in the 1972 League Cup when Chelsea went down to Stoke City.
And he came second to Billy Bremner in the 1970 Player of the Year Award too.
His only success came in the 1971 European Cup Winners’ Cup when he was influential in Chelsea’s two-leg victory over the mighty Real Madrid.
Sadly, he tried to sell his one and only winner’s medal in 2008 as money troubles took hold.
“I’m a little bit short and I could do with the money,” he admitted.
Everything changed in December 1997…
After attending the Sports Writers’ Association Awards in Kensington, Hudson was walking near his home in East End of London when he stepped off the pavement and was hit by a passing car.
Initially, doctors at the Royal London Hospital warned Hudson’s family that it was unlikely he was going to survive.
But after a 14-hour operation to treat a terrible array of injuries that included a shattered pelvis and a blood clot on the brain, the surgeon’s managed to stabilise his condition.
Hudson would stay in a coma for 59 days and eventually had 60 operations to help him recover.
Over 20 years later, Hudson still has physiotherapy for his injuries.
But the accident ruined his life…
Though he survived the accident, Hudson’s life collapsed in the aftermath. Not only did he separate from his wife, forcing him to move back in with his mother in her council house on the World’s End estate in Chelsea, but when she passed away in 2003, the council evicted him, making him homeless.
He then stayed with his son in a studio flat, with a friend in his pub in Stoke and in a hostel, paid for the by the council.
“I can’t see why I should have ended up homeless,” he said recently.
And he didn’t have the riches of today’s players to fall back on…
At his peak, Hudson earned just £125 a week as a player with Chelsea.
“Now,” he says. “That’s not even sandwich money.” And although Hudson received significant compensation from his accident, he soon lost most of it in a botched investment deal.
“Someone convinced me to invest it into a property in Cyprus,” he explained.
“I put in £150,000 and when it went belly up I got less than half of that amount back.”
Today, Hudson survives on a disability pension and a £300-a-week pension he built up during his time at Stoke City in the mid-1970s.
He was always up for a night on the tiles…
Hudson has always loved a tipple and, as a player of the 1970s, he was always ready and raring to go whenever there was a session on the cards.
At his first get-together with the England squad at Hendon Hall in 1971, Hudson was getting ready for bed to observe the team’s 10.30pm curfew when a red Jaguar pulled up outside his room.
It was Bobby Moore. Soon, Hudson would be joined by Mike Summerbee and Rodney Marsh and the England skipper whisked them all off to a pub in the East End.
“We didn’t come back until four in the morning,” he recalls.
He’s still drinking to this day, despite all of his problems…
“People say to me, ‘Every time I see you you’re in a pub,’” he laughs.
“And I say, ‘That’s strange because every time I see you you’re in a pub’.”
He fell out with Chelsea…
Though Chelsea fans hold Hudson in high esteem, it seems the club where he made his name don’t share the same opinion.
When he had his accident, the club didn’t send his mum any flowers. They didn’t even send him a card.
And the idea of staging a fundraising testimonial to help him out isn’t exactly high on their list of priorities. But is he angry? Damn right he is. “Chelsea have given me absolutely nothing,” he rages. “When I die they will all be paying tributes, but that will be no good then.”
He’s still battling…
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Now 67, Hudson continues to face up to all the challenges his life throws at him.
“Every day,” he says, “is a chore.”
He’s struggled with his drinking, he’s been declared bankrupt, been through two divorces and he can’t walk without crutches. And his health is continual concern.
In 2014 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer while two years later he suffered a heart attack. And yet, he still battles on.