Sheffield United last night paid tribute to Alan Hodgkinson, one of their greatest ever players, who has passed away aged 79.
The former England goalkeeper made 674 competitive appearances for United after arriving at Bramall Lane in 1953.
Hodgkinson, who was awarded the MBE seven years ago, later became a successful coach with the likes of Rangers, Coventry City and Oxford.
City visit United in League One competition this weekend.
Team mates Tony Currie, Len Badger and Chris Wilder, who worked with Hodgkinson at The Kassam Stadium, were among those to pay their respects.
“Hodgy was like a father figure to me when I came to United,” Currie told The Star. “He took all of us young lads under his wing and taught us what to do and what not to do. What a player and what a bloke. He was a legend in every sense of the word.”
“I went on so many tours with him back then, we played together all over the world,” Badger added. “He was the best goalkeeper, especially in those one on one situations, that I ever saw.”
Echoing those sentiments, Badger said: “Bramall Lane was Hodgy’s spiritual home. It was where, like me, he felt he belonged. People, quite rightly, revered Hodgy. But, even so, I don’t think it’s fully appreciated what an impact he had on the game. It’s terrible news.”
Hodgkinson, who was a member of the England squads which travelled to the 1958 and 1962 World Cup finals, made his league debut during a victory over Newcastle 12 months after being signed from Worksop Town. He famously recommended Peter Schmeichel to Manchester United who have been paired with Nigel Adkins’ side in the FA Cup third round.
United yesterday issued a statement offering “sincere condolences” to Hodgkinson’s family and confirmed “tributes will be discussed” at a suitable time.
Wilder, now manager of Northampton Town, said: “I owe him so much. Hodgy was a proper football man and the first of the goalkeeping coaches. Everyone who earns a living in that role now has Hodgy to thank because he was the pioneer.”
“Because I’d played for United too, albeit later, I could listen to his stories about those times all day,” Wilder added. “The things Hodgy taught me, the little pointers he gave me, I still use today. Look at the people he worked for, Sir Alex Ferguson, Walter Smith, Jim Smith, that tells you everything you need to know. He had a remarkable knowledge of the game. I’m gutted.”