AS a lifelong Middlesbrough fan, Phill Hudson grew up dreaming of playing for his hometown club. Though an excellent young footballer, he didn't manage to achieve that ambition. He did, however, become a pivotal part of the Boro first team set-up, a vital pair of eyes for numerous managers and crucial in preparing for games and knowing the opposition inside out.

Hudson spent 11 years at Boro, a journey that started with the help of Tony Mowbray's brother Darren and led to the Teessider working his way up to becoming first team analyst at the Riverside. He was part of the first team set-up for eight years under several managers.

Last season he played a crucial behind the scenes role as Boro came within touching distance of the Premier League.

But then, in the summer, while Hudson was at Glastonbury Festival, he received a phone call from a former Boro member of staff with a surprise job offer. Robbie Keane - assistant at Boro when Jonathan Woodgate was in charge -  had just been offered the manager's job at Maccabi Tel Aviv and wanted Hudson to become his senior performance analyst in Israel.

"Robbie had spoken to Michael(Carrick) because they're friends and said 'look, I want to take Phil with me'," said Hudson, recalling how his summer Boro exit came about.

"Michael (Carrick) messaged me and said, 'I know you're at Glastonbury, but can we have a chat'?"

"I had a good chat with him and although it was obviously a really difficult decision to leave Boro, I just thought this is the type of opportunity that doesn't come around very often, you might not get that chance again."

For Hudson, it was the life experience and the opportunity of a completely different professional challenge that tempted him to leave the club he "loves". And life in Tel Aviv has started well. Maccabi have qualified for the Europa Conference League and top the Israeli Premier League after two games.

Hudson has come a long way since he had to admit defeat in his bid to make it a professional player himself. A promising striker as a kid, Hudson - who grew up in Ormesby before moving to Redcar, was released by Hartlepool United when he was 17.

"Ultimately you're not good enough to make it and you just become a number," he says.

"One of my good friends, Darren Mowbray was the head analyst at Leeds at the time and introduced me to the role. I did a placement with him."

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After the introduction of the Elite Player Performance Plan, designed to revamp the academy system following England's disappointing showing at the 2010 World Cup, jobs became available at Boro. Mowbray - now head of recruitment at Southampton - was working in the recruitment team at Boro at this stage and urged Hudson to apply for a role.

Hudson initially linked up with the academy but it was during Aitor Karanka's time in charge that he stepped up to the first team.

"Craig Hignett was assistant manager at the time with Aitor and he said he needed a bit of help, Chelsea were asking for certain things with the players they had on loan at Boro, so Craig asked me to film some of the home games and help with the clips," says Hudson.

That was the foot in the door for Hudson, who, under Carrick last season, played a key role at Rockliffe. He helped to prepare meetings for the head coach, addressed the players on upcoming opponents and identified strengths and weaknesses and used analysis to help outline tactics.

On a matchday, Hudson would take in the game from a high vantage point and report down to the management team pitchside. Last season, he was often flanked by Grant Leadbitter.

Hudson offers a peep behind the scenes at Middlesbrough and the qualities of Carrick that enabled the head coach to oversee such a dramatic improvement last year, when Boro came so close to winning promotion.

"He's just very true to what he believes in," says Hudson of Carrick.

"He's calm. He doesn't really shout. Yeah, he vents his frustration when things don't go right, but ultimately he's a good man manager. He understands what the players are going through in certain situations. His man management skills are very good, but his coaching staff help him as well. Woody (Jonathan Woodgate), Danksy (Aaron Danks) and Grant (Leadbitter) are his eyes and ears as well, but ultimately he's his own guy. He's very, very good for the football club.

"I believe they'll get success from it and I just hope he's given the tools to be able to achieve what we almost achieved last year.

"He wanted me to provide him with the information that he wants to know. We played a certain way under him and it was all about how can we exploit the opposition and how can they hurt us so what do we need to do.

"That was with him and the coaching staff. Over a period of time you learn what managers want."

And as a first team analyst, you quickly learn about the importance of being able to adapt, says Hudson.

"I stepped up when Aggers (Steve Agnew) came in. But different managers bring their own staff in," he says.

"That was difficult because I'd never experienced that before. So when Aggers didn't get the job, Garry Monk came in and brought his own analyst in and then when that didn't work out, Pulis came in and brought his own analyst in.

"Woody came in and had me as head analyst, which was fantastic. Neil Warnock didn't bring anyone with him so that was me again doing the work, but then Chris (Wilder) comes in and brings his own analyst, so you're to-ing and fro-ing. That can be difficult."


The hours are long and sacrifices need to be made, birthdays and Christmases are spent away from home. But the highs make all the hard work worthwhile.

"Getting promoted at Boro was the highlight, that day, achieving that, it was incredible to be part of," says Hudson.

"Getting relegated was obviously the opposite and the worst felling. Obviously there were different reasons for that.

"But in terms of high points, I think last year is right up there as well. When Michael took over, to go from where we were to where we ended up. That takes some doing, from second bottom to almost going up. We gave Sheffield United a good run for their money and just tailed away at the end.

"I loved my time at Boro. To have 11 years there, it was ridiculously good.

"But when I got this opportunity, I had to make a choice. Do I stay at Boro forever, which I could have easily done, or test myself and experience something completely different."

For Keane, Hudson and Maccabi Tel Aviv, it's so far, so good. And there are some big games just around the corner. The group stage of the Europa Conference League kicks off next week before a trip to play fierce rivals Hapoel Tel Aviv.

"I'm loving it," he says.

"I've had to pinch myself a bit at times. From Redcar to Tel Aviv, it's crazy! But it's been great so far. Long may it continue."