In his playing days he roomed with Michael Carrick and became close to Frank Lampard at West Ham United. Now, after being compared to a young Jose Mourinho by Harry Redknapp, 32-year-old Englishman Anthony Hudson has recently been appointed as coach of the Bahrain national team, shortly after winning the Gulf Cup with the country’s U-23 side.
It has not been an orthodox route into the role for Hudson. He called time on his playing career prematurely in order to concentrate fully on gaining his coaching qualifications. After a spell as assistant at Wilmington Hammerheads, he was appointed as head coach at Real Maryland Monarchs at the age of 27 – the youngest head coach in the USA at the time.
“That was the perfect experience for me because it set me up for future jobs,” he told FIFA.com. “I had to learn to communicate well with players who were older than me. Instead of being overly authoritative you have got to sell your ideas. You have got to talk to the players, you have to work to try and get certain players to buy into what you’re doing.”
Hudson need not have worried. His time in Maryland was an unqualified success, leading the team to the play-offs in 2009 and being nominated as Coach of the Year in the process. A spell working under Redknapp at Tottenham Hotspur soon followed, before he set out on his own managing Welsh club Newport County before the call came from former England manager Peter Taylor to join him in Bahrain as U-23 coach.
“I have always been a believer that I was going to do well here,” he continued. “When we reached the final of the Gulf Cup this time last year, I said: ‘Next year we’ll be the best team in the Gulf.’ When I told everyone that, including the players, I knew they didn’t believe me, because they have never won anything here. But I’ve always been that type of person. I go into everything with a lot of belief.”
The prophecy was perfect, as Bahrain defeated Saudi Arabia, their conquerors last year in the final of the 2013 Gulf Cup by one goal to nil. Hassan Jameel’s 32nd minute penalty proved to be the difference between the two sides – and the Asian nation were left celebrating their first-ever tournament win which in turn resulted in a trip to the Riffa Palace to meet the country’s King.
I said: ‘Next year we’ll be the best team in the Gulf.’ When I told everyone that, including the players, I knew they didn’t believe me, because they have never won anything here. But I’ve always been that type of person. I go into everything with a lot of belief.
“It was hugely impressive, yet very humbling,” said Hudson. “It really was incredible. The players and I loved it! It was so impressive. As he was talking to the players, the King was telling jokes, making them laugh. He said, ‘This is a team for the future,’ which was very rewarding for them.”
The former Luton Town and NEC Nijmegen player shares the Bahrain monarch’s optimism for the future: “There are some excellent senior players with some perfect characters to help bring through some of the younger players. One thing Bahrain does have is great team spirit. They have got big hearts. There’s great potential here.
“Bahrain has fantastic talent. They have players who can play football. We have never been as big as Iran or Saudi Arabia in terms of physique but we can do things to improve that. The federation is doing a really good job of improving the league and the infrastructure within the clubs and system, which is going to help football here.”
An eye to the future
Exactly a month ago, Hudson was appointed as coach of Bahrain’s senior side, replacing Gabriel Calderon, who was relieved of his duties after failing to guide Al Ahmar (The Red) to Brazil 2014. So what can fans of Bahrain football expect of the new man in charge?
“I like my teams to play football,” said Hudson. “I believe it should entertaining and enjoyable for the people to watch. I like my teams to play out from the back, to play football with a lot of movement, certainly with a lot of creativity up front, but also strong in its organisation.”
“My short-term target is to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup in 2015. That’s the most important goal and that’s all I am thinking about. I want to make Bahrain as competitive as possible and as strong as possible in the next two years.
Hudson will leave no stone unturned in his quest – and has already learned from the best after observing coaching sessions from the likes of Marcelo Bielsa, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger, which is something he plans to replicate in Germany and the Netherlands in the coming months. Shortly before the interview with FIFA.com concluded, the Bahrain coach gave his lowdown on these giants of the coaching world.
“I thought Wenger was incredible,” smiled Hudson. “The most attractive thing was his style of play, his philosophy. Mourinho has a wonderful effect on his players - through his man-management - he makes people feel very special. I think a lot of players, and certainly myself, as a young player, would have loved to go and play under someone like Mourinho.
“However, the coach I have taken the most from was Bielsa. I have loved him for years. Watching him work, watching him get his ideas across, seeing his teams play and how they play with so much energy and passion - they’re just so well-drilled. That had a big influence on me.”