“Back in those days the medical staff at football clubs were a joke,” Hudson recalls. “When I went to Stoke, the club doctor was a gynecologist. After I broke my leg during a game, he took one look at it and said: ‘you’ll be fine for Saturday’.”
‘Ramsey didn’t listen and take my injury seriously’
His damaged ankle meant Hudson was obliged to miss Chelsea’s epic Cup final against Leeds, then sit out the World Cup. He took a while to find his form the following season, though eventually he helped Chelsea to secure the European Cup Winners’ Cup, the medal from which he wears, in memory of his team-mates, round his neck. He was still feeling the injury the following season. And by the time the league had finished, such was his constant pain from him the then 21 year-old could barely walk down the street. However, he got a call up for the post-season England Under-23 tour of Russia and eastern Europe. When Ramsey telephoned him with the news, he explained the injury was still plaguing him, suggesting he needed a summer’s rest.
“He didn’t listen,” Hudson says of the England manager. “He told me if I didn’t turn up at the airport, I’d have to face the consequences. I honestly thought it would be a slap on his wrist.”
Hudson did not turn up at the airport. And the papers went to town on his absence from him.
“It was on one back page, me on one side, George Best on the other. The headline was: The bad boys of football. On one side you’ve got one who’s gone to Marbella with some bird, on the other the one who can’t be bothered to go on an England tour. They were trying to make me the southern George Best. I was labeled after that.”
And, instead of a slap on the wrist, he would later learn that, together with the Derby defender Colin Todd, who had similarly missed the tour, he had been issued with a three-year ban from representing his country.
“The ban became public on 25 September 1972, which was the first time I heard of such a verdict, that’s four months after the tour. Again I read it in the papers.”
According to Hudson he never faced a court, was never asked to defend himself, never received so much as a phone call from the FA about the issue. He was just banned. 50 years on, the injustice still smarts.
“If Alf had said, all right, we’ll get a doctor to look at your ankle, see if you’re making this up, then fair enough. I would have appreciated that, because I needed help to sort it. But no, it was a three-year ban. When Rio Ferdinand missed a drug test, he got nine months. And that was because Alex Ferguson scared the s— out of the FA. But I had no one backing me. Chelsea just accepted it. I was hung out to dry.”
‘I was in a terrible mess… drinking, womanising’
Hudson says the effect was calamitous, sending him into a spiral of mental decline.
“My ex said to me the other week that I was the worst husband ever. She might be right. But there was a reason. That spell in my life caused so much torment: missing the Cup final, missing Mexico. But getting the ban was the icing on the cake. I went off the scale, drinking, womanising. I had to carry a completely unfair reputation for being a troublemaker as a result. I was in a terrible mess. Honestly, I believe if I hadn’t gone to Stoke, I’d have ended up in the Thames.”
Under the shrewd management of Tony Waddington, his transfer to the Potteries in 1974 not only revived his career, but it also brought him back into England contention. By then Ramsey had been fired after failing to qualify for the World Cup in Germany.
“Waddington got my ban dropped, he was on to the FA on a regular basis, and in the media saying: this guy should start for England. All of a sudden, at the end of the 1974 season, I got picked for an Under-23 tour. Ken Furphy was the U23 manager. I turned up at the airport and he had a team meeting. He said the first thing he had to do was pick a captain. There was a big lad called Willie Maddren from Middlesbrough there. He pointed at me and said: he’s the best player, he should be captain. So, Furphy said: OK you’re the captain. From ban to captain: you couldn’t make it up. Just bonkers.”