Alan Hudson used to stroll through Chelsea matches like soccer royalty. Now, his body ravaged after being effectively left for dead when he was hit by a car in 1997, he struggles to walk down the road.
On Monday, the former England midfielder marked the 15th anniversary of the accident which left him in a coma for two months with a series of life-threatening injuries.
Hudson oozed class when he was in the Chelsea squad that won the 1970 FA Cup and the 1971 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Forty years on, his life is a battle to cope with the legacy of the accident he was involved in as a pedestrian on a London street.
“Every day now is a chore,” he said in an interview. “I look at my crutches, standing there by the wall, and I realize that day in December 1997 has put a completely new complexion on my life. Whereas most people are ill maybe once or twice a year, it’s every day for me. Getting out of bed is hard, I don’t wear socks any more because I can’t put them on my feet and I struggle to stand up in the shower.”
Listening to the 61-year-old Hudson, it is difficult to comprehend this is the same midfield general who galloped over the mud-covered soccer pitches of his era like a thoroughbred racehorse.
The former Chelsea, Arsenal, Stoke City and Seattle Sounders playmaker won only two caps for England, a woefully inadequate return for someone who was once compared to a 1966 World Cup-winning hero.
After debutant Hudson stole the show in a 2-0 victory over world champions West Germany at Wembley in 1975, visiting coach Helmut Schoen said: “At last, England have found a replacement for Bobby Charlton.”
Guenther Netzer, West Germany’s great midfield playmaker, added: “Where have England been hiding this player? He was world class.”
Those days are just a memory for Hudson, but he believes the high level of fitness he achieved during his career was the reason he cheated death in 1997.
“The doctors said I had died once or twice, then they said I would never walk again, but I told them I would,” said Hudson, who has been in the operating theater more than 70 times since the accident. “People don’t really understand what I’ve been through. This is a new life of being disabled, and I have had to come to terms with that and live with it. I’m not dramatizing things, but my playing and training saved my life. I trained every day right up to the day the car hit me. I had a three-hour session — two hours on the bike and about 2,000 sit-ups that very morning — and I think that sort of daily regime helped in my recovery.”
Hudson is a wordsmith these days. He is the author of five books and is proud of the fact they are all his own work, achieved without the aid of a ghostwriter.
His new ebook From the Playing Fields to the Killing Fields is available from Amazon.com and it is a straight-talking account of his life.
“I had another big operation on my foot three-and-a-half months ago because I had a bad case of ‘foot drop’ stemming from the coma,” Hudson said. “The doctors put two pins in and said: ‘Hopefully, that will pull the foot up.’ I had good balance when I was a player, but I struggle now to go up and down the stairs. I also struggle going down the road. If I’m walking with a friend, I have to get them to hold on to my arm so that I don’t fall over, but I just have to move on. I’ve got so many things I want to do — I’m living in Stoke at the moment and I want to go down to London to see my young granddaughter, and I want to do well with my books too.”
The Chelsea-born Hudson describes this disabled chapter of his life as his third incarnation.
“A lot of people would have given up by now, but when I look back at the day I came out of hospital I think of that as the start of my third life,” he said. “When I left my first club Chelsea to join Stoke in 1974 that was the start of my second life because I went through a bad spell at the end of my time at Stamford Bridge.”
“Stoke manager Tony Waddington resurrected me and now I call this my third life — on Dec. 15 it will be my 15th birthday,” he joked.
“My previous lives have gone now. I have to forget what I used to do. I can’t put my tracksuit on and go running any more. I can’t even get dressed properly. When I have a party with my friends every year on Dec. 15, they always say: ‘Why are you celebrating?’ and I say: ‘I’m celebrating still being here,’” he said.