Belfast Telegraph

Newport axing was a blessing in disguise for All Whites gaffer

By Liam Blackburn

Anthony Hudson returns to a United Kingdom dugout tomorrow for the first time since being sacked by Newport in 2011, with his CV since bolstered by two international titles and his passport filled with a plethora of stamps.

The 36-year-old, the son of former England international Alan Hudson, is in charge of Northern Ireland's next opponents New Zealand, a fact he can scarcely believe as he reflects on his journey since being axed by then non-league Newport after only 19 games six years ago.

"I look back now and I'm so pleased it happened because it's shaped me for the better," Hudson said.

"In hindsight it was probably one of the best things that happened because I went away and had even more drive and hunger to improve and prove people wrong."

Seattle-born Hudson grew up in West Ham's academy alongside Michael Carrick, but never made the grade professionally, turning to management with American outfit Real Maryland Monarchs at just 27 and taking charge of Newport three years later.

In between he was in charge of Tottenham's reserves and arrived in South Wales with Harry Redknapp comparing him to Jose Mourinho. Yet in the cut-throat world of British football, he was soon on the scrapheap.

"If you don't have a really strong background as a player, as soon as you have a few bad results, straight away you're targeted because you're a young manager," Hudson explained.

"I was 27 when I got my first job in America. Outside of England people wouldn't value that too much, but it was a similar thing. You're managing a budget, your job's on the line, earning very little money and trying to survive. It's pressure."

In many ways, life began for Hudson at 30. After Newport, ex-England manager Peter Taylor recruited him to be Bahrain's Under-23s boss and he won the Gulf Cup with that age group before moving up to the seniors.

He landed the New Zealand job in 2014 and guided them to the OFC Nations Cup title, ensuring their participation at this summer's Confederations Cup in Russia, with just two play-off ties standing between the All Whites and the 2018 World Cup.

International football presents its own challenges, many of them geographically. Hudson's players ply their trade as far afield as Canada and Greece and one fixture in Oman came two days after a 36-hour flight. Yet the breaks in between have also given Hudson globe-trotting opportunities to learn from those he admires the most such as Mourinho and Marcelo Bielsa.

"I've gone all around the world - Argentina, Spain, Holland, France, Italy," he explained. "When I first started coaching I'd hire a car for three or four weeks and drive all around England.

"You have the luxury of being able to go and study, learn. It's been such an important part of where I am now."

Hudson has long left behind a country where the absence of home-grown managers in the upper echelons is a constant concern. Rather than moan, he has built his reputation further afield, not that he sees his story as one to preach about to other young English managers.

"I'm not one to sit here and say, 'My way is the best way' - it's worked for me," Hudson said.

"What you can't do is not do anything and complain and point the finger at the system and say, 'There's no opportunities'. You've got to make it happen."

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