Sheffield United: Lane legend the no 1 for innovation

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday Oct 3 1970'Alan Hodgkinson (GK)'Alan Warboys (Wed)'Eddie Colquhoun (Utd)'Graham Pugh (Wed)
Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday Oct 3 1970'Alan Hodgkinson (GK)'Alan Warboys (Wed)'Eddie Colquhoun (Utd)'Graham Pugh (Wed)
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He was responsible for delivering Peter Schmeichel to Old Trafford and mentoring David Seaman throughout his international career.

But, according to one former Sheffield United teammate, Alan Hodgkinson also transformed the face of English football in another more subtle but equally dramatic way.

“If it wasn’t for him I don’t think we’d have goalkeeping coaches these days,” Len Badger, who spent nine years with Hodgkinson at Bramall Lane, said.

“He was the first person to notice that, while every other position on the pitch was getting specialist help, the lads between the posts weren’t and he did something about it.

“It sounds strange now but but back then the goalies didn’t really have anyone working with them on a day to day basis. They just used to muck in.

“But Hodgy was always someone who took his profession very seriously and he realised that something needed to be done. Somebody else might have come along later on and decided to start helping out the keepers. But Hodgy, as far as I’m concerned anyway, was the person who first set the wheels in motion. And, because of that, a lot of people owe him a debt of gratitude.”

Hodgkinson, who will be signing copies of his autobiography at The Star tomorrow, wrote his name into United’s history books after arriving from Worksop Town in 1953.

Six hundred and seventy four appearances, five England caps and nearly two decades later, he packed away his gloves to pursue a successful career on the backroom staff of clubs such as Glasgow Rangers, Manchester City and Everton.

“Hodgy wasn’t the tallest - he’s only about five feet nine - and that’s probably one of the reasons why he made such a good coach,” Badger continued. “He was a wonderful goalkeeper, right up there with the very best, but because of his height he had to think a lot about his job.

“Looking back, I think Hodgy analysed everything that he did. He put a lot of effort into deciding which were the right positions to take up at any given time and how best to cope with certain situations.

“That’s why he understands so much about his position. Some people don’t really analyse their jobs that much. They just go out there and do it.

“But Hodgy understood the mechanics of being a goalie.”

‘Between the Sticks,’ which chronicles Hodgkinson’s life in the game, contains testimonies from the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson - “Alan is the master” - Gordon Banks - “He was absolutely superb” - and Harry Redknapp - “The guy’s phenomenal.”

Badger, a member of the United squad which reached the topflight in 1971, holds Hodgkinson in equally high regard.

“Alan is a lovely bloke, absolutely brilliant,” he said. “He was a cracking player and an absolutely smashing colleague.

“I was only a young lad when I first met him at United but he took me under his wing and always gave me good advice. I didn’t always take it mind, but that’s another story!

“Hodgy loves Sheffield United too. He’s been all over with his work but he’s always come back to the Lane whenever he’s had the chance.”

Hodgkinson will be signing copies of ‘Between the Sticks,’ published by HarperCollins, at The Star, York Street, between midday and 2pm tomorrow.

Pre-season plans hinge on new boss

Sheffield United will wait until appointing a new manager before applying the finishing touches to their pre-season programme.

As The Star revealed earlier this month, officials at Bramall Lane have received offers from several teams in the Scottish Premier and Football leagues aimed at arranging a series of summer friendlies.

However, while members of the League One club’s administration department are busy compiling a provisional fixture schedule, they will delay making any concrete plans until Danny Wilson’s replacement is unveiled.

United have previously visited the Mediterranean island of Malta but logistical problems, including the fact that pitches at several of its leading stadiums are being relayed, prompted the change.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” a source said. “But it is true that we’ve had some invites from north of the border.”

United, who could yet decide to establish a warm-weather training camp in Malta at some point during the 2013/14 campaign, travelled to Scotland seven years ago as part of their preparations for the 2006/07 FAPL season.

They faced Inverness Caledonian Thistle and Greenock Morton before returning to England.

Interviews with those who have expressed an interest in taking charge of United next term were still being conducted over the weekend.

Among the successful candidate’s first tasks will be publishing the released and retained list of players and signing off his squad’s programme of friendlies.

Meanwhile, George Long will report for international duty with England this week after being named in their provisional 35 man squad for the forthcoming Under-20 World Cup finals.

The teenage goalkeeper, who cemented his place in United’s starting 11 last term, has been summoned to a training camp in Cheshire by coach Peter Taylor.

England are also scheduled to visit St George’s Park, the Football Association’s centre of excellence near Burton, before travelling to the tournament in Turkey next month.

Taylor’s side have been drawn in Group E with Chile, Egypt and Iraq.

The hosts face Colombia, El Salvador and Australia.

Long, aged 19, has previously been capped by his country at U-18 level.