Following the announcement of club captain Mark Hudson’s retirement, Talk of the Town pays tribute to the man who laid the foundations for our success long before a certain bearded German genius came along and revolutionised the club.
When Mark Hudson arrived on a two-year deal from Cardiff in the summer of 2014, many Town fans saw it as our prayers answered. We had long been crying out for an experienced centre-half with real quality who could marshal the then crumbling back line and inject some backbone into our team.
As a captain of three of his previous clubs in Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic and Cardiff City respectively, Mark would bring the steel and above all, leadership that was so desperately required at the time.
Joining under then caretaker manager Mark Lillis after the sacking of Mark Robns, Lillis recognised the qualities Mark would bring both as a player and as a man saying:
“Organisation and experience are very important attributes in the heart of your defence and Mark has both in abundance. He is a leader with vast experience of the Championship and is a massive arrival for this football club.
There are not many centre backs of his type and quality around; he can be a hugely influential addition”.
The playing squad had been dogged by accusations of disloyalty and a desire to leave the club as soon as a better offer came in. One such example being Jacob Butterfield allegedly refusing to board a team bus so he could force through a move to Derby.
It was also plagued by rumours that the senior leadership group were seemingly disinterested in the club and individual players openly got into slanging matches with town fans on social media i.e. Anthony Gerrard.
If Hudson was to be a success at Town, he had to bring not only an assurance on the pitch but also completely change the dressing room culture which pervaded the club. In many ways, Hudson began the ‘Wagner Revolution’ before Wagner himself even arrived.
Many fans underestimate the difficult task managers’ face when they have to alter the culture of a dressing room. It can take multiple seasons; involve mass clear-out of players or making examples out of players who had been a disruptive influence.
If Wagner was to have any success at Town when he came into the club, he had to have the support of his senior lieutenants. Thankfully, he inherited a club captain who was not only a leader who all the players would follow into battle but also carry out his orders to the letter.
Hudson ensured the regime transition from one of light training sessions and complacency amongst some players under Powell transformed into a tough but rewarding fitness regime and a togetherness that permeated beyond the dressing room across the whole club. Many fans are very quick to forget the effort that was needed to change this.
Hudson’s form in the season following Wagner’s arrival was certainly mixed but whenever his outstanding performances were blotted by poor ones, he was the first to front up and take responsibility either for his own performance or the team’s. One notable example came against Brentford away which we lost 4-2.
After arguably being at fault for two of the goals, Hudson came over and apologised to the traveling faithful who duly recognised the bottle it takes to front up to your fans after making individual errors that cost your team goals.
Such displays of stature and character are uncommon to a lot of modern day footballers, who would rather slink down the tunnel and avoid confrontation than own up to their mistakes and thank the fans for paying the money to watch them play.
He was also one of the main volunteers on town’s charity work, helping out where he could at the Town Foundation breakfast club as well as always being on hand after matches to sign autographs and take pictures. Such qualities are not lost on fans and make a lasting impression.
Another endearing quality that Hudson would admit that Wagner instilled in him was a renewed hunger and desire to improve himself even when he was coming towards the end of his career.
‘Supercoaches’ like England Rugby Head Coach Eddie Jones are constantly extolling the virtues of a permanent cycle of self-improvement and clearly, a similar mantra was introduced by Wagner to the senior players and the squad as a whole. Hudson duly absorbed this knowledge and will no doubt use this to further his coaching career at Town as well.
It is emblematic of the sort of captain and man Mark Hudson is to see the reaction of all the players to his announcement today, with many crediting him as vital to helping them settle in and become the players they were for Town.
Mark fully embraced what it means to play for Huddersfield Town and even in his final year of football managed to put in excellent displays that rolled back the years, including in the 0-0 draw against Manchester City as well as stalwart performances at the start of the season against Leeds and Ipswich.
He is valued enough by the club to be given an immediate coaching role at the club and if one day, he takes over from David Wagner and dons his trademark blue cap and tracksuit ensemble, it couldn’t happen to a better man.
A leader, a captain and a role model; like Peter Clarke before him, Mark Hudson was a captain you could be proud of to lead your club as a man who on and off the pitch, lead by example.