World Cup 2022: Anthony Hudson – the USA England coach who spent time as a prison visitor

World Cup 2022: Anthony Hudson – the USA England coach who spent time as a prison visitor

Anthony Hudson
Anthony Hudson’s father Alan won two caps for England in 1975
Host Country: Qatar Appointment: November 20-December 18 Cover: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-to-day TV programsFull coverage details

The sound of prison doors closing gave Anthony Hudson a strong sense of perspective.

Hudson, the assistant coach of the United States, reflects on the fact that there is another world, far removed from the fit, healthy and, in some cases, mega-rich footballers he works with in the FIFA World Cup. world in Qatar.

It means he’s enjoying his role in the tournament all the more – where he tries to help the United States beat England at Al-Bayt Stadium on Friday.

For Hudson, victory would be sweet against the country where he grew up and for which his father Alan earned two caps.

But he also knows all about the other side of life, having been a prison visitor.

Hudson began going to prison, having decided to “give something back” during his personal journey away from the destructive path that an alcohol addiction was taking him.

“Every time you walk in there and you hear the steel doors and you recognize the rigor and formality of the doors slamming and the register being taken, it reminds you of what a very environment you are in. difficult,” he said. “It’s frightening.

“There was one specific incident in a medium security prison just outside of Maryland where it got a little sketchy. There was a big guy in there who made fun of my accent the whole time but not in a good way.

“I was chatting with this youngster next to me and it almost started. The keepers jumped on the big guy and it was chaos. While it was going on, this kid, he was only small and must have been 20 or 21, he had fear in his eyes.

“Getting out of that situation was really tough. But at the same time it’s also meaningful because you understand the difference it could make.”

A former West Ham and Luton youth player, the 41-year-old was first asked if he would be ready to go to jail 15 years ago as he neared the end of his playing career with the semi-professional Wilmington. North Carolina Hammerheads Club.

This advanced to his current project as founder and president of the Forgotten Dogs Foundation, which is also linked to his prison visits.

“I’m a big dog lover and wanted to start a shelter, but because of my job I couldn’t,” he said. “It’s in a special part of the prison wing.

“People who love dogs can come in and work with bigger, more aggressive dogs that no one wants to save and are going to be euthanized. There’s a full-time trainer who trains the inmates to teach dogs. The dogs stay with inmates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Inmates learn a new trade.

“I walked into this guy’s cell, which was a gray concrete wall, with a high ceiling and a little window at the top you couldn’t see through and a steel bed. In the corner there was a crate for the dog. I remember coming in and he was sitting there with the dog in his lap.

“The guy said it gave him purpose because he was saving the dog’s life. It was amazing.”

“I called my family and they were screaming”

Such sobering and uplifting experiences will be pushed firmly into Hudson’s mind at the World Cup.

The United States are looking for a first win after opening their Group B campaign by drawing 1-1 with Wales on Monday; now Hudson faces a country he has a strong connection to.

Born in Seattle in 1981, he grew up in the North West of England after his father returned to Stoke for a second spell in 1984 as he ended his own playing career.

An element of mixed emotions would be understandable. Still, Hudson says his position isn’t quite as clear cut. His father spent four years playing in the United States after joining the Seattle Sounders in 1979 and from there he gained his love of life in the United States.

“My old man really loves America. He loved the way his life was here. He loved the NASL. He loved the lifestyle. He told me stories about the game here. I grew up with my old man saying ‘one day you went to America,’ Hudson said.

“When the draw came out it was amazing. I called my family and they were screaming. It was a proud moment and an exciting moment. The dream is to play or coach at the World Cup To do that and to play against one of the best teams and one that I have a connection with is really special.”

The feelings are only heightened by Hudson’s “painful experience” four years ago, when he captained the New Zealand side beaten in the intercontinental play-offs by Peru.

Even at the start of the last qualifying campaign, he was coaching USA Under-20s until he was brought into Gregg Berhalter’s squad to work with the senior side in July 2020.

Progress to Qatar was not easy for the United States as they drew their first two games and lost to Panama in the fifth of a 14-game marathon qualifying programme.

Nonetheless, having reached the final four years after missing out on Russia 2018 altogether, they will be hoping to make it to the round of 16, giving them a chance to emulate their best performances, in Japan and South Korea in 2002, when they were beaten by Germany in the quarter-finals.

With one of Qatar’s youngest squads, including talents like Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Juventus’ Winston McKennie, the future for the United States looks bright.

“America has always had top players,” he said. “It feels different because the players coming in are much more technical.

“They are at the top clubs in the big leagues and this is a generation with a lot of potential.”

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