Secret Diary of Anthony Hudson
Secret Diary of Anthony Hudson, Week 1:
It's a big job coaching the All Whites. One of the biggest jobs in football. But the All Whites have done incredibly well since I've arrived and I just wish more people would acknowledge that, especially the media.
Spent 40 minutes doing internet scouting, looking for players with New Zealand connections. This team won't truly be mine until all the players have earned their very first caps from me. Then I killed four hours polishing my Wikipedia page, trying to get it just right.
That is also one of the biggest jobs in football. In fact I deserve more credit for handling two of the biggest jobs in football. My Wikipedia page is at least starting to reflect that.
My results with the All Whites have been fantastic, losing just one game and scoring 26 goals, conceding 5, if you include the New Zealand U23’s record and ignore those early losses.
But am I safe in the All Whites job? It still haunts me that I was sacked after 19 games in charge at Newport and left them in the relegation zone. I'm a much better coach than that.
After 17 games here I can't even remember any All Whites losses. Indeed, my Wikipedia page should probably reflect that in some way. My Wikipedia page is very important to me. I am now Anthony Hudson (manager) whereas previously I was Anthony Hudson (footballer). Increasingly, I realise, life eventually comes to reflect Wikipedia.
Rang Darren Bazeley. "Do you want to come to the Confederations Cup?" I asked. "Of course," he said. "Well," I said, "you will need to assist me with some Wikipedia editing, it is a big job."
Told Andy Martin I now want to be known as the All Whites manager, not the coach. Harry Redknapp, Jose Mourinho, and Sam Allardyce they're all known as managers, so I should also be called manager.
"Do you realise," Andy said, "that in New Zealand being manager would mean you looking after the kit, doing the laundry and booking the team buses?" "Just details," I replied. "I'm now a manager on Wikipedia, so it's important to become a manager in real life."
Another tough day. I've been blocked from three of my Wikipedia editing accounts by that Scooby Doo mob at Yellow Fever. Had to call in my old mate, Jeffbalusi, whose entire existence is focused on making positive edits to my Wikipedia page. Jeff has previously worked as a reporter in Newport and Bahrain, and coincidentally now works in Auckland. He's followed me to all corners of the earth. He's the journalist I most admire. Ha ha, if only people knew!
Coaching is not just all about getting out on the pitch with a bag of balls. No, that's the easy stuff. The real art is the behind the scenes stuff, the management, working the media, polishing the old image on Wikipedia.
That's what sets the top coaches apart, and I have come to accept that along with Jose Mourinho and Sam Allardyce, I am an incredibly ambitious coach. Mine and the All Whites' ambitions complement each other in that regard - though maybe I should play down the Allardyce comparison since he was sacked as England boss following that newspaper sting.
Press conference today. I got a bit prickly when one journalist asked me to confirm where I was born.
"That's an incredibly personal question, and it's irrelevant," I replied, while making a mental note to tell Dazza and Jeff they will have to work a lot harder on my Wikipedia page.
"You should be asking me about winning the Nations Cup for a record time or the performances against the US and Mexico, which deserve much more credit," I complain.
But the journalist presses me on whether I was born in America - and almost catches me out.
"The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle, the hills are the greenest green," I nostalgically reminisce at first, like a beautiful child growing up free and wild, full of dreams to last the years...
But then I gather myself. I point out even Kevin Fallon calls me a Whinging Pom. When a Whinging Pom calls you a Whinging Pom, you know you were born in either London or Birmingham. I resolve to work harder on cultivating my cockney accent - and my wikipedia page.
I am an extremely logical person. And I am an ambitious person. How many ambitious people were born in Seattle? Exactly. Therefore logically I could not have been born in Seattle.
It distracts me from my prepared lines about how the All Whites are on such a good run. We’ve not been beaten ever, and have scored 40 goals and conceded none - and to confirm it NZF have issued a tweet
I finish the conference by refusing to speak about Alex Rufer. Why should I? His Wikipedia page is shit.
Dazza asks me if the six hours he's spent working on Anthony Hudson Wikipedia page edits is really worth it. At times it seems like he is fighting off a whole army of counter-editors.
"Yeah, it's really important," I said. "You have no idea how heavily NZ Football relied on it during their recruitment process. The thing is, these days NZ Football have all sorts of accountancy experts, legal experts, governance specialists, logistics advisors on their board - but nobody who can put a serious football question to a qualified coach. So a decent page kills it - Wikipedia is as far as they ever get for football knowledge."
Dazza's a good sort. Not classy enough to introduce to Jose or Big Sam, but still a handy gopher for these little jobs.
Meanwhile I spent the morning on the computer. But it's not all about Wikipedia. Knock out a few emails to Fleet St as well. For an international manager the media is very important because it is another source for us to get messages out and set the culture. I also offer some off-the-record tips about how managerial vacancies might be filled, and some take it hook, line and sinker. Make myself a stunning new avatar as well.
The All Whites have gone up a level under my managership, and it's because of that same attention to detail. The All Whites are the biggest climbers in world football - if you ignore the official biggest climbers annual award. And that's going on my Wikipedia page as soon as the next NZF staffer comes free from a current edit.
In the afternoon I go for a kickabout with Moses. I don't understand why people call him the new Jeremy Christie. I promise him he will be in the starting lineup if he can land two decent crosses in the box from the left flank. But with daylight saving now ended we run out of time after a couple of hours.
Popped down to watch Moses play. We're closer than people think. But I was running late, after my weekly appointment to get my designer stubble titivated at Rodney Wayne's, so probably missed his best touches.
Overall I'm still dissatisfied with the delusional young players I see in New Zealand, and the soft, laid-back culture. So I go and buy some new skinny trousers and pointy black shoes for the Confederations Cup. People need to appreciate we are not going to Russia just take part and make up the numbers. We want to look good too.
Meanwhile this Wikipedia editing is becoming a real battle. Who the hell is this Dale Warburton character who keeps changing my Wikipedia page? Obviously he's not a real person, but could he be a rogue element in my squad? NZ Football have 40 staff now, and I've got 20 of them working on my page, some working from home so the IP addresses don't raise suspicions.
I've got my players energised by some exciting challenges ahead, and the same now applies to NZ Football staff. I want them to build a Wikipedia page which gives them the chance to show the world what they can do. Or, more to the point, what I can do.
I'm starting to get a bit of stick on the fan forums. But I don't do this job to make friends - apart perhaps from in Moses' case. I'm paid to get results. It's not the head coaches job - sorry, manager's job - to be nice to people and confirm their irrational prejudices.
Of course I respect the fans hugely, but it doesn't make me happy or sad that they have an opinion about me. The game has changed in the internet era. It's not how it used to be many, many years ago. These days perception is reality, so we need to work on the perception as much as the reality. People need to understand that and I should probably work up a power point presentation about it.
There's a lot of criticism out there that I really don't care about, because I am essentially an agent of change, a man ahead of my time. If you are affected by the good stuff then you are going to be affected by the negative stuff.
That doesn't mean I don't care about what other people think. I do. I respect people in the game, but the bottom line is I think it is more valuable to have a half decent Wikipedia page that the whole world can see, and I just wish people could appreciate that, even that Dale Warburton bozo.
Secret Diary of Anthony Hudson, Part 2:
Well, after three vibrant years at the helm of the All Whites I can truly reflect upon having turned a team around – if you ignore a lot of the rubbish we played at the Confederations Cup – and built depth, confidence, and a sort of weird feudal uncertainty in the national squad.
But most of all I have transformed the careers of a new generation.
I’ve improved the team trainings, the environment, and equipped a number of young players to walk in the fullness of their own purpose. Almost single-handedly I’ve created a culture of encouragement and empowerment where players can thrive and grow, while I can reflect on these most intangible of successes with my Fleet St contacts.
In short, I’ve been transformational, and inspiring in incredibly difficult circumstances, overcoming player eligibility issues, dearth of matches and frustratingly less talented assistants.
But now, approaching the final hurdle of the Peru playoffs I must catalyse my All Whites squad for the fiercest inquisition and also look destiny in the eye in terms of my own future professional career.
Funnily enough, that's reminded me of how I’ve always wanted to live in Denver.
Did you know it’s the United States’’ most landlocked city, 865 miles from the Pacific, 870 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. And I’ve always liked it dry.
Well, what a nice surprise to find Colorado Rapids are tapping me up, big-time, though I’ve got mixed feelings about it.
On the one hand I was tickled to read that I established myself as the job favourite when I won over the technical staff in Colorado with my philosophies. It’s exactly the same whiteboard schtick I did for New Zealand Football three years ago. Hey, hey, it shows I’ve still got it.
One the other hand, it’s not exactly Chelsea, is it? Indeed, it’s a shame I’m not been talked up more in the UK. But that’s more down to the team’s shit showing in Russia than anything I’ve done wrong, though I must do a few more Fleet St interviews ahead of the playoffs, drop a few names here and there, Peter Taylor etc.
But the very first thing I did today was change my Wikipedia page back to make it very clear I was born in Seattle. Just in case. It seems like a lifetime ago that we were having internecine debates on-line about my place of birth when it was always beyond question. Can’t believe people were putting it about that I was born in London.
Yes, some people still go on about my Wikipedia page and the 10-changes-a-day thing. But they don’t realise that in football your wiki is in fact your public CV. And who doesn’t polish their CV when find they are in the market for a new job?
The Peru match programme was due to go to bed today. It will be a collector’s item. I spoke to Andy, suggesting the cover splash should be “Anthony Hudson Souvenir Edition” with a shot of me doing a whiteboard session. Maybe with sidebar profiles on Dane Ingham and Moses Dyer on why they’re forever grateful for their All Whites call-ups. And perhaps a deeper Rory Fallon feature entitled: “There’s only two masters I worship”.
Meanwhile I have to make a decision on the captaincy. Winston or Woodsy? Winston is the incumbent’s incumbent. But we’ve seen so little of him during my reign. And he’s a bit fick isn’t he?. Can you imagine him doing a press conference without me should we get a spanking, and it’s not just for tame Kiwi media?
On the other hand, until last week Woodsy hadn’t put a hamstring wrong as skipper.
Sure, he’s not the brightest either – what do you expect when you leave school at 16 - but at least he’s got this “Teacher’s Pet” relationship with me, as Michael Boxall called it last year, which is quite endearing.
However maybe I best stick with Winston. The last thing we would want is for acrimony in the camp and for a black man to “take a knee” before kick-off.
Memo to self. Have to stop calling Chris “Woodsy”. It only confuses Kiwi television commentators who still think his surname is actually Woods. Besides, I see Sean Dyche calls him Woody, with no S. Sean and myself are both premier league-grade managers, so should be heard to speak with one voice.
Meanwhile I see the media have been getting prickly because I haven’t named the All Whites squad yet. Ha. If they get under my skin, I’ll get under there’s. That will teach them to be more professional like me.
This Colorado Rapids gig is starting to prove tricky, with increasing media scrutiny.
Andy Martin suggested this great line, that “we don’t comment on speculation”. Said he’d read it was an old chestnut Chris Turner used to fall back on when he was Football Kingz boss.
I said, “But that’s complete bollocks, Andy, I comment on speculation all the time, whether it’s Chris Wood’s hamstring or Winston Reid’s groin.”
Still, Andy has been very understanding about the Colorado job offer. Indeed, so much so I’ve christened him “UnderstAndy around the office.
Andy knows the drill, because he will of course be playing the same game himself very soon. It won’t be long before you see the stories linking him with the New Zealand Rugby Union.
I like Andy. Sure, he’s not a football man, and says some dopey things. But at least he doesn’t question, doesn’t stick his beak in. You tell him what the party line is and he sticks with it. He knows how to take instruction from a coach, and I respect that in a chief executive.
Andy’s even counter-offered me an age-group gig for New Zealand Football. But I’m a highly respected senior international coach with an image to protect. And there’s always a touch of pathos in seeing Neil Emblen mucking in at Western Springs or Ricki Herbert slumming it at Hamilton Wanderers.
The big games draw closer, raising more big questions.
How will history remember me? How will I frame my All White legacy on Wikipedia? Should I dispense with the Moses Dyer gag, or milk it one more time just to annoy the likes of Dale Warburton and Patrick Barnes.
Which reminds me, that bloody Barnes. I dobbed him in to Andy after I saw him at the Solomon’s match at Albany. But apparently I’d confused him with Wombat, the Auckland City fan who looks like “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski. Frustrating how nearly everyone in New Zealand seems to have scruffy facial hair and glasses.
Got to thinking again today, how I’ve always had a soft spot for Colorado.
And John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High - that could have been a song written just for me…
He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door
When he first came to the mountains his life was far away
On the road and hanging by a song
But the string's already broken and he doesn't really care
It keeps changing fast and it don't last for long
But the Colorado rocky mountain high
I've seen it rainin' fire in the sky
The shadow from the starlight is softer than a lullabye…
Rocky mountain high (Colorado)
He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below
He saw everything as far as you can see
And they say that he got crazy once and he tried to touch the sun
And he lost a friend but kept his memory
I’ll work it into a whiteboard session.
Meanwhile I spent four hours today studying Americanese football terminology.
I could easily drop the affected cockney accent and go full JP Delecamera if I wanted.
I practised in front of the mirror: “Sure, Colorado might not be the most winningest team in the Western Conference, but the other week I saw them goal a score straight into the upper 90 from inside the six following an apex restart, while it was a shut-out at the other end.”
Yes, I think I could get my cleats into that.
Secret Diary of Anthony Hudson, Part 3:
Should I stay - or should I go? It's a question which has been tearing me up, consuming me for days. And for once Andy Martin has been no help.
There was a strong argument to be made for both options, depending on how you present the evidence or spin the case. It's the sort of massive decision I have had to weigh day-in an day-out as All Whites coach, so I'm well prepared for a big call.
But in the end I elect to stay with Rodney Wayne for my daily facial hair titivation and maintenance rather than switch to Hamilton Brooks in Newmarket.
Luckily it's been a lot more straight forward in deciding my future career options in the wake of that shock second leg away loss to Peru.
Yes, I could easily have stayed, Andy was eating out of my hand.
But it would have done my head in. The Moses Dyer gag has run it's course, Rory Fallon has retired, the Inghams are mental. Sure, Alex Rufer has huge comedy potential, but otherwise I would need to find an awful lot of new piss-take material to avoid being bored sharkless during those long, long, tri-monthly windows between All Whites matches. Changing your Wikipedia page can only kill so much time, you know.
It's been a cathartic experience to have announced my resignation as All Whites coach.
During my time in charge I oversaw a massive change in culture. I got rid of that awful matey environment Neil Emblen had cultivated where everyone mucked in and made the best of what there was. No, I made it far more professional, bringing in the sports scientists and video analysts, the whiteboards, the pseudo-deep philosophy.
I like to think I have showed that same professional touch with my departure, giving no final media statement, explanation, or word on my future. That's how it is in the professional game. You are not answerable to the public, and I should not have to do the media's job for them (apart, perhaps from Veitchy) and people need to realise that.
The players took it well when I told them I was leaving.
"You can't," they replied in unison. "You utter can't," they said.
At least I think that was what they were saying. It was quite noisy with jets flying overhead and those flat nasal Kiwi accents can be difficult.
I look back on my time with the All Whites with immense pride.
When I took over they were lowly ranked enigmas. Nobody knew what to make of them, or how they might play on any given day.
I have taken that situation and turned it around.
By contrast, when people didn't know how my team would play, that was widely recognised as being a coaching masterstroke to wrong-foot the opposition. By the end our opponents didn't even know if we would play our best players, or leave them on the bench. How brilliant is that? Arsene Wenger level.
On my watch we never lost a game to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, or Papua New Guinea (though it was close a couple of times) and the All Whites are now a refreshing 122nd in the world.
Mine is a proud record. Under me the All Whites won 9 matches and drew 7. Yes, there were some other matches as well, but it's best to stay focused on what is important. Let's not get distracted in a historic analysis by going down blind alleys, otherwise I will need to get the whiteboard out.
Oh, how I laughed when I saw the Stuff story on who might succeed me. I spluttered into my Earl Grey tea. Oh my aching ribs.
Darren Bazeley was the first on their list. Ha ha.
Hilarious. Dazza is a brilliant assistant, a born No 2. Give him a pile of cones and he's happy as a dead pig in the sunshine, as they say up the Colorado Rapids.
But you need to carry the ball off on a stretcher after one of his training sessions, while he often doesn't know whether to check his arse or scratch his watch.
Dazza's the bloke to call upon when you've sacked your first assistant, to appoint your mate, who you've then had to axe because he's just a physical fitness nutter, and replace with a septuagerian based in England who is not much use for an intercontinental playoff.
So, yeah, Dazza's, a fourth choice No 2. Some people thought I was the comedy merchant in New Zealand football, but it just goes to show. And people wonder why I am contemptuous of the New Zealand media?
Whenever you leave a big job you naturally wonder about your legacy. It's not an ego thing, it's just a function of and active and inquiring mind.
Will I be appreciated for what I have done in turning the game around in New Zealand?
Will the New Zealand game at large respect the manner in which I transformed the performance culture into one of ownership, accountability and leadership? I've planted enough seeds, and surely some of them must grow.
Will history recognise what I have done in taking the team from one which had ultimately failed in a two-legged playoff time between the fourth-placed finisher in the CONCACAF confederation in 2013 to one which, erm, just missed out in a playoff tie with the fifth best team in South American qualifiers?
Or will everyone think of me as just a self-serving wanker?
Problem is, New Zealand has never had a cult figure for a coach before.
I suppose Kevin Fallon came close. He was almost a "cult" figure - there was just one teeny weeny letter different in the word-spelling for him.
But who WILL replace someone as irreplaceable as me?
It will be incredibly tough to find anyone of my ability - and I am first to admit it is not my problem.
And yet, maybe, just maybe I should offer myself as a consultant in finding my own successor.
It would be a shame to have New Zealand Football conduct a full review on planning and preparation, measures of success and activity, resourcing and support, structure of management and performance culture without my guiding hand to give a directional steer.
Traditionally I was always a fan of the fact the NZ Football board retained responsibility and accountability for the strategic outcomes of All Whites plans, with their accountants, lawyers, logistics experts, and management gurus, but nobody capable of asking the hard questions of a coach.
So who knows where that set-up could lead without me at the helm?
What ghastly legacy might endure if they discovered that in retrospect they might just as well have left Neil Emblen in charge four years ago?