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Book Review Huddy's flair is there, but it's not the whole picture

PETER MASON reviews a book with a sometimes candid look at the Chelsea star that doesn't get under his skin

Huddy: the official biography of Alan Hudson
Jason Pettigrove
St David’s Press, £13.99

AS A gifted midfielder for Chelsea, Stoke and Arsenal, Alan Hudson was a maverick English footballer who won the hearts of terrace fans during the 1960s and ’70s but whose carousing lifestyle and anti-authoritarian attitude resulted in a career that fell short of its initial promise.

While Hudson won cups with Chelsea and became a legendary figure at Stoke, he played just twice for England. Many thought he should have had 50 or more caps, but his peak years were seen out in the backwaters of the North American Soccer League. 
Once his footballing days were over, alcoholism, bad judgement and bad luck played their part in a disjointed, sometimes troubled, later life, which in recent years has been blighted by the horrific injuries he sustained when a hit-and-run driver mowed him down on a street in east London.
Jason Pettigrove’s account of Hudson’s ups and downs is easy to digest and engaging enough to be read in one hit.

Entertaining and well informed about his playing days and insightful about some of the painful times that followed, it’s also refreshingly candid in places, conceding readily, for example, that Hudson was an inattentive husband and father who frequently put alcohol and womanising before the needs of his family. 
It’s also upfront about his mood swings and debilitating periods of depression, some of which have taken him to the edge of sanity.
But there’s also a one-sidedness to the project, for, although the book presents us with the occasional voice of a critic, in general there’s little to hear from anyone who might have an alternative to Hudson’s idiosyncratic world view. 
Given that he’s such a tricky personality to understand, any detailed attempt to explain Hudson’s complex psyche would have been more than welcome, especially as Pettigrove is a friend. 
Instead, on the occasions when we do get to consider the nature of the man, analysis is often confined to the idea that “Alan is Alan, and that’s just the way he is.” 
This is particularly disappointing when there are so many fascinating avenues to explore in that direction, including a consideration of how much Hudson was responsible for his own footballing difficulties and how much the conservative forces in control of the game were to blame for stifling his influence. 
While the benefit of an official biography is that it provides access to inside information that might not otherwise be available, the flip side is that it can result in a one-eyed portrayal.

While this book is by no means a hagiography and is well worth a read, it never quite provides us with a three-dimensional profile.


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