Hudson is young, hungry and has big plans

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014
AMBITIOUS: Anthony Hudson is unveiled as the All Whites new coach and says he wants to bring a more attacking mindset to the national team.
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GOOD START: New All Whites coach Anthony Hudson is earning praise from his players in Doha.

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The new All Whites coach is a 33-year-old teetotaller who lives with a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Dyer for company.

His father is an English great, a footballer so good that strangers break down in tears when they approach the 'son of' to reminisce in the street.

He is a self-confessed obsessive who has his own website and counts the likes of Jose Mourinho and Harry Redknapp as not only contacts on his phone, but coaching confidantes.

Despite being sacked by lowly Newport County just three years ago, he is a man with such complete confidence in his own abilities that he believes he can qualify New Zealand (current ranking 101) for the 2018 World Cup and then create history by making it out of the group stages for the first time.

Meet Anthony Hudson, who was yesterday unveiled as New Zealand's 16th and perhaps most fascinating national men's football coach.

''Everyone who's close to me, knows that I'm very much an open book,'' Hudson tells Stuff from his Takapuna hotel room.

''This is something that I'm quite happy has come up because that's just how I am.''

Hudson is referring to his battle with the bottle, demons that derailed a promising playing career before a moment of clarity when he woke up one day in the United States and remembered that he had drunkenly crashed his car the night before.

At a crossroads in his mid-20s, Hudson hauled himself off to Alcoholics Anonymous and hasn't looked back, as coaching replaced playing as his passion.

''It was certainly a big part of my life,'' he says of confronting his drinking problems.

''It was nine years ago now so it's been a long, long time but going through that whole process has been incredible for me. I wouldn't change it for the world, it's made me who I am.

''I probably wouldn't be sitting in this position if it wasn't for experiences like that. I didn't really expect it to come up again [in the media] because it was such a long time ago. But it's part of who I am.''

Hudson holds the prestigious UEFA Pro Licence and is one of the world's youngest national team coaches.

He emerged as NZ Football's preferred candidate from more than 100 applicants.

The All Whites have been on the radar since the 2010 World Cup as Hudson monitored their progress from Bahrain, where he worked as the under-23 then senior coach before resigning last month.

He has been given wide-ranging responsibilities for such a young man; tasked with not only qualifying for Russia 2018 but setting the technical direction for New Zealand's age-group teams.

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''I see some real quality young players that like to play football and are comfortable on the ball. Lots of energy and positive players.

''It's going to take an incredible amount of hard work from everyone. But I'm confident with time, as we implement a strong philosophy, culture and team spirit, we will achieve what we want to.''

There are myriad issues to sort through, starting with finding a house in Auckland that is close enough to the beach for his dog's tastes.

He is sweating on a work visa coming through in time for the first game against Uzbekistan in Tashkent on September 8 and the preparation camp that precedes it in Qatar.

Assistant coach Neil Emblen will pick the first squad on his behalf this week and Hudson knows he needs to get senior players Winston Reid and Tommy Smith to buy in to what he plans to build.

The England-based defenders made themselves unavailable for both All Whites internationals this year.

''I've had a good chat to Winston through my connections at West Ham. At that stage I didn't have the job but he came across as a good guy and very down to earth. He gave me good insight into things.

''I want to approach this with a neutral set of eyes. I know what's happened in the past and I don't want to make judgements on individual players. I want to start fresh and as situations come up we'll address them.''

He plans to meet Wellington Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick and New Zealand's national league coaches as soon as possible.

Long term, he thinks NZ Football should push for a move into Asia but in the meantime plans to pounce on the opportunity to qualify for the World Cup through Oceania.

''I'll definitely be pushing for more games. We need to look at playing games in Europe for our European-based players and also games here for the best local players. I need to get a good feel for the landscape and then get to work.

''For me a normal day is waking up in the morning and after I've walked the dog and had my breakfast, every day I'll watch and analyse a game. I'm always trying to improve.

''I went to Argentina recently to visit [Marseille manager] Marcelo Bielsa at his home and I'm on the phone to people like Harry Redknapp all the time. They have given me advice about this job.

''My path has been a case of learning from as many people as possible. But I'm quite boring really. I love being on the beach in the morning with the dog. I love football and love my life.''

AT A GLANCE

Name: Anthony Hudson

Coaching experience:

2013-14: Bahrain

2012-2013: Bahrain under-23

2011: Newport County

2010-11: Tottenham Hotspur reserves

Did you know:

- Pronounces his name 'Antony'

- Lives with a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Dyer

- Is the son of former Chelsea legend Alan

- Has his own website, anthonyhudson.com

- Holds a UEFA Pro Licence

- The Dominion Post

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