Few people have followed a fascinating and, at times, tempestuous Chelsea season more closely than midfield legend Alan Hudson. Now living in Stoke after a two-year stint in Cyprus, Huddy is currently writing a book all about the Blues’ rollercoaster campaign. The title, When Two Worlds Collide, suggests a James Bond-style thriller lies between the pages, but then again there has been more drama, intrigue and tension at the Bridge this term than in the average 007 plot.
A lot of the dramatic focus, of course, has centred on the manager’s position. What, first of all, did Alan make of the brief but eventful Scolari reign? “I was a little bit disappointed with Scolari, mainly because he didn’t stick to his guns,” he says, talking exclusively to CFCnet. “He should have kept going the way he started. I think, unlike Mourinho or Hiddink, he could be influenced. That was his downfall; he shouldn’t have stood for ‘player power’, if that’s what it was. Managers should be above that because no player is bigger than the club. It wouldn’t have happened under Mourinho, he wouldn’t have let a good player like Drogba mess him about. Scolari lost Drogba as a player, and Drogba is a hell of a player when he’s on his game.”
Yet, it had all started so well with the Blues storming to the top of the table at the start of the season. Huddy was guest of honour at the Stoke-Chelsea game in September, receiving a rapturous reception from both sets of fans when he went on the pitch at half-time, and was hugely impressed by the Blues’ performance in an emphatic 2-0 victory. “They are the only team who have been to the Britannia Stadium this season and not been overawed by the way Stoke play,” he says. “Chelsea outplayed them and outmuscled them, and actually made Stoke look like a pub team. No other team has done that. Stoke are a very tough team at home and Chelsea made them look very, very average. I went down on the pitch at half-time and Stoke’s players were flagging while Chelsea’s hadn’t even broken sweat. They were winning at a canter. At the time I thought Chelsea were definitely going to win the league.”
The subsequent decline in the Blues’ fortunes has largely been ascribed to Scolari lacking a ‘Plan B’ but Huddy reckons over-confidence, even complacency, was the most important factor in the downturn in the team’s results. “Everything in football starts at the top,” he argues. “I don’t like managers and players who are forever in the papers talking a good game and saying they’re going to win the league. Managers should tell their players not to do it, because it’s a lot easier to say it than to do it, and they certainly shouldn’t do it themselves. But I think Scolari was guilty of that.”
The same accusation could hardly be levelled at the Brazilian’s replacement, the quietly authoritative Guus Hiddink . Unsurprisingly, then, Alan is a big fan of the Dutchman. “I’m very impressed by him and his record speaks for himself,” he says. “He’s a football man and he comes from a good environment, having been brought up in Holland in the Cruyff era. So he knows all about the game. You just need to see how Chelsea have done since he took over to see how good he is.”
But will Hiddink stay at the Bridge? It’s the question every Chelsea fan is wondering about as the season draws to a close. “I can see that they are going to try to move heaven and earth to get him to stay,” continues Alan. “But he’s so enraptured with the Russian job and he’s so loyal it could be difficult to persuade him, although I actually think he could carry on doing both jobs. There aren’t many managers around like him today – generally, if the big money is there they’ll move. They’ve become like players, moving from club to club for the wrong reasons.”
If Hiddink doesn’t stay at the Bridge there are no shortage of candidates to fill his place. Huddy, though, is unconvinced by Frank Rijkaard’s credentials and reckons that the Chelsea job is “too big” for Gianfranco Zola, although he acknowledges the good work the former Blues favourite is doing at West Ham. His preferred choice to manage the club he starred at in the late 1960s and early 1970s is another onetime Chelsea man, Terry Venables. “He would be an absolutely fantastic choice because he’s been there and done it all,” he says. “He knows how to handle players, how to handle the media. I really can’t understand why he has never managed Chelsea.”
‘El Tel’ for the Blues, then? It somehow seems improbable, but what’s for sure is that there are a few more unlikely twists to come in this potboiler of a season.
LUNCH WITH HUDDY
A sportsman’s lunch in honour of Alan Hudson is being held at the Eyston Arms, East Hendred, Oxfordshire on Sunday 10th May 2009, starting at 3pm. Alan will be joined on the day by fellow Chelsea legend Tommy Baldwin, former Stoke and Arsenal defender Steve Bould and National Hunt jockey Graham Bradley. Following a delicious three-course meal (complete with full bottle of wine per person), the quartet will take part in a question and answer session. There will also be an auction of selected sporting memorabilia. Tickets for the event (price £95 person, or £155 including overnight bed and breakfast accommodation) are available from Paul McCormack on 07917 897246 or firstname.lastname@example.org