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Inside FutbolInside Futbol


Interview: Bahrain Boss Anthony Hudson Talks Gulf Cup, England’s Youth and Jose Mourinho Visit

Bibhash Dash

Anthony Hudson has been a busy coach, whether it has been England, the United States or even Bahrain. More importantly, he is part of a growing number of young coaches keen to make their mark. The son of former England international Alan Hudson, Anthony's playing career began with the youth system at West Ham, before enjoying spells at Luton Town in England and NEC Nijmegen in Holland.

But it is with coaching that the 32-year-old has made the biggest impact, having taken charge of Real Maryland FC in the United States and, most notably, at Newport County in the English Conference Premier. His time in Wales began well, but the vagaries of Conference football saw him leave the post after just six months. However, the team can be thankful for his efforts in the 2010/11 season, which saw The Exiles get within touching distance of the playoffs, to then chart a path for promotion in 2012/13 under a different leader.

Newport recently ended their 25-year wait for promotion, and Anthony remains one of their most fervent admirers.

As a coach, Anthony has expanded his horizons by securing a job with Bahrain's Olympic and Under-23 teams, initially starting the role under former England manager and current boss of the Under-20 team Peter Taylor.

Overall, Anthony credits his learnings under the great managers of this era, with his time spent under then Tottenham Hotspur boss Harry Redknapp in 2010/11 supplemented by visits to the greats in Spain, notably Jose Mourinho, at the time in charge of Real Madrid, and Marco Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao.

With Bahrain's Under-23 side poised to go one better than last year's runners-up spot at the Gulf Cup of Nations, Anthony Hudson spoke exclusively to Inside Futbol about his career so far and the challenges that lie ahead.


Inside Futbol (IF): Since taking over Bahrain's Olympic team, you've seen two national coaches depart in Peter Taylor and Gabriel Calderon. What are the major challenges you face in your job?

Anthony Hudson (AH): The job came about when Peter Taylor was the coach of the national team. They needed an Olympic coach and it came about through Peter. I've been here nearly two years and I've just signed an extension for another two years.

When the changes were happening I thought I was going to go as well, because Peter had brought me over. But because I was slightly separate, and I had my own team, they decided to keep me on. It was difficult, but I spoke to Peter throughout the whole period and he encouraged me to stay on. But you lose your support, especially the English speaking people. That was the biggest challenge because as a coach, after training and games, you need to be able to speak to someone you trust, who speaks your language. That's been a tricky area.

IF: With Calderon gone as well, what is the next step for you, both with the Under-23 team and for your personal goals? Do you see yourself in the senior team job with Bahrain?

AH: We're preparing for the Gulf Cup in August. Now with Ramadan, it's a real challenging time in terms of training so I've not had time to think about anything other than our preparation.

Bahrain are looking for a coach. I'm an ambitious coach, and if the opportunity ever arose, then I'm prepared. But as far as I'm concerned I'm just totally focused on my team for now.

IF: How are preparations going for the Gulf Cup?

AH: We've only just got our full squad back because we had some players missing, but it's been good. We're going to Turkey for a ten-day training camp, and then we come back for a friendly game before the tournament starts (on 15th August).

Things are tough during Ramadan, because the timing of training sessions is very, very late. It's always a challenge because we also have to manage their diet, and make sure they don't eat too much before training. But the biggest challenge is when players in our team aren't playing regular first team football in the leagues. It means when we prepare for tournaments, they're always a bit rusty, and they have to a whole lot of work to get back up to the level required.

IF: You've spent time under Harry Redknapp when you were a coach with the developmental side at Spurs. What have you learned most from him?

AH: The biggest thing about Harry was that it was great being around him. He created a very good environment for the staff and the players. He's a fantastic man-manager and the training ground was an enjoyable place to be when Harry was there. Harry had very good way of dealing with the players and making sure they had a smile on their faces.

IF: No question on Spurs can be complete without a reference to Gareth Bale. Is he at the same level as Lionel Messi as many say? And are there more gems at Spurs that we haven't yet heard of?

AH: I never worked with Gareth, but I spoke to him on a daily basis. He's a very down-to-earth person and a fantastic talent. He can be one of the best. I don't know if he's showing it at the highest levels, when you're talking about Champions League and even internationally. I think when you're doing it against the best teams in Europe often, then you can be up there with Messi. But he's certainly well on his way to doing that.

In terms of others, we had some Tottenham players at the Under-20 World Cup; Alex Pritchard, for example, and a few others. They've all got fantastic ability and they're all good footballers. It's just a case of getting the opportunity. They're as good as any in the Premier League. But as you see in most clubs, including at Spurs, they're buying big names. It's very hard to break through for the youngsters even if they have the ability.

IF: What about the experiences of meeting Jose Mourinho and Marco Bielsa?

AH: Mourinho's a very down-to-earth man. I went there at the best time possible for a coach, because it was right at the time when he had dropped [Iker] Casillas and the whole of Spain turned against him. He was under incredible pressure. But the biggest thing was that despite the craziness, he still found time to be true to his word of having me there. He took time out before they played a game to give me advice. For someone in that position, one of the biggest jobs in the world, to do that showed me he had complete control and confidence in who he was; whereas 99 out of 100 managers would be panicking or flapping under the pressure.

Marco Bielsa has been one of my favourite coaches. I really like the way his teams play. I'm working on my own coaching philosophy, but if I can have my teams one day playing anywhere near the way Bielsa's team play, I'd be very happy.

IF: How did you react when Harry Redknapp labelled you the "young Jose Mourinho" prior to you taking on the Newport County job?

AH: I just laughed! It was nice when he said it, when I got offered the job at Newport. I've not even thought twice about it, but it was very nice of him to say that. Most of all, I'm very appreciative of the support he gave me and still gives me. I speak to him a lot for support and advice and that means a great deal to me.

IF: In terms of England's youth teams, why do you think the players are unable to perform as well as they do at club level?

AH: There's a big movement in England now and there's a lot of people that are very concerned. They should be. I think the expectations from English supporters are probably a lot higher than what they should be. I listened to reports during the Under-20 World Cup, and there were some ignorant views that people had about teams like Iraq. The general consensus was that they didn't even know these teams played football and they thought the English should be walking all over them.

If the Under-21s had all their best players, that alone would have made a big difference in the European Championship, especially when you're playing against other teams – like Iraq – who do have their big stars. The French Under-20 team have got Paul Pogba in there, who had a fantastic season scoring top goals in Italy. He plays alongside some of the best players in Europe and now he's played in the Under-20 World Cup. That makes a huge difference.

IF: Finally, do you see yourself managing in the Premier League one day? What does the future hold for Anthony Hudson the coach?

AH: I've had a few people approach me in the last six to 12 months, but I'm happy here [in Bahrain] right now. This is definitely where I'm supposed to be. I just want to keep learning, growing, and improving my philosophy.

Of course, I want to be my own man and get a manager’s job at a club or even at an international team. But in terms of location, whether it's in England or in South America, or even in Central America, it doesn't matter. I learned Spanish a few years ago and now I'm learning French as well, so who knows? The plan for me is that I want to be at the very highest level. I need to make sure I'm ready when I get there.

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