GATESHEAD lad David Hodgson had a stellar career playing football. In 1982, he helped England win their first trophy since the World Cup in 1966. Two years later he was involved in a European Cup final with Liverpool and a year after that he played for Sunderland in a cup final at Wembley.

Not bad for a young man who could so easily have found himself in the borstal system, because in his youth he was trouble, once shooting at someone with an air rifle.

What changed him?


"Luck," said David, who was speaking to our Sporting Memories group last week. "Luck, a good friend called Ted Cummings, Redheugh Boys Club and football.

"Ted introduced to me to Redheugh Boys Club, and they introduced me to organised football because they were one of the best, and, as far as football was concerned, professionally organised youth clubs in the North East.

"Dad also ran a social club in High Fell which was frequented by the local police who were in and out checking on things while they had a drink, so that helped to keep the law from our door."

At Under 21 level for England, he came on as a substitute in the second leg of the European final against Germany in 1982 and set up a goal for Paul Goddard which meant they won the final 5-4 on aggregate after winning the first leg 3-1 at Bramall Lane.

"Bolton Wanderers invited me for a trial and they offered me a two year apprentice contract followed by a two year professional contract," he said. "Middlesbrough must have got wind of this, because they very quickly came in with a two year apprentice contract and I signed for them. At that time I was a striker, but I had to make changes to my play when I eventually got into the first team.

The Northern Echo: Middlesbrough line up with new manager Bobby Murdoch and new captain, John Craggs, at the start of the 1981-82 season, including David Hodgson on the far left of the front row, sitting expansively 

"Our two strikers, one was Bosco Jankovic, were a bit static, so it was no good me playing a static kind of game. I decided to move about on the pitch, use my pace and fitness."

David's debut was against Bristol City who had Norman Hunter in their side.

"I was aware of the chicken run, which was an area at Ayresome Park where you could get some stick from our supporters. I needed to make a good impression so I clashed into Norman Hunter. They liked that, but there was a sequel when we played Bristol City away in our last match of the season.

"When the game started, Hunter came over and said: 'Right you little sh.., here's the deal, you slow down and I won't break your legs.' I replied: 'Here's my deal, I won't slow down, and you will not break my legs.' To Hunter's credit, he kept off me and at the end of the game he came over and put his arms around me."

David enjoyed a good relationship with someone else: John Neal, his manager. "John was brilliant with me. A quiet, caring, bloke, he chain smoked, and had women all over the place. He once gave me a lift in his car and I could hardly breathe, while there was a big story concerning him and a love child at Chelsea."

The Northern Echo: David Hodgson playing for Liverpool in September 1982David Hodgson playing for Liverpool in September 1982

Bob Paisley, David's manager at Liverpool, was very similar. "Bob was a very quiet gentleman and never said much in the dressing room before we went out. Very quietly under his breath though he might be muttering 'get them effin beat', that's all you heard.

"If we did get beat at Annfield, which wasn't often, the opposition were invited into the boot room for a beer. Bob and his team would then quiz them on how they had beaten us. So the next time we played against them we knew what to expect.

"For our pre-season training we often went abroad, but all we did was get bladdered every night. There wasn't much coaching. I remember Graham Souness joining us and he asked someone: 'How do you want me to play?'. He was told: 'We've paid all this money for you because you can play, so just play'."

David, who was a sub when Liverpool beat Roma on penalties to win the European Cup in 1984, recalled the League Cup final in 1985 when he was a Sunderland player and Norwich were the opposition before a full house at Wembley. "Len Ashurst, our manager, decided to change the team at the last moment and left out Colin West, who had scored goals for us all through the tournament. I'm afraid that decision knocked the stuffing out of us, and we lost 1-0."

David later played for Norwich, Boro on loan, Xerez, Metz and Swansea City, making a total of 287 league appearances with 27 goals. His record for England Under 21s was seven appearances with three goals and, of course, he went on to manage Darlington FC in more than 400 matches.


The Northern Echo: David Hodgson, by Peter JacksonDavid Hodgson, by Peter Jackson

  • Thanks to David, Paul Hodgson and Peter Jackson.