When the camera panned up to the Royal Box at Wembley, three men were seen hugging. The Sky commentator spotted Jim Smith, didn’t recognise Kelvin Thomas and was contractually forbidden to mention ITV’s Jim Rosenthal.
The sense of relief and triumph was palpable; with the players celebrating on the pitch there was a visceral sense of the bond within the club, the sheer bloody hard work both on and off the pitch that got us to this point.
One man who was missing from the scene was goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson. He’s a funny chap Hodgkinson, you suspect the club gets a grant to allow him to come to training, or that Jim Smith is doing it as a favour for his wife who just wants him out of the house.
He’s part of the wallpaper at home games, at half time he trots out to gently kick the ball into the hands of the substitute keeper like a lads and dads trip down the park. After a couple of minutes, they’ve usually stopped and are looking at the half-times. If they weren’t there, you wouldn’t miss them, but you’d get the sense that something wasn’t right.
Hodgkinson was sprung from the Old Boy Network, a mafia-like operation headed up by Sir Alex Ferguson. The membership of which was secured because he was a former England international.
What’s more, he was in the 1958 World Cup squad in Sweden. It wasn’t a great tournament for England; three draws and a defeat saw them heading home before those other footballing behemoths Wales and Northern Ireland.
The tournament was significant in that it heralded the end of the era of Tom Finney, Billy Wright, Johnny Haynes and the emergence of the likes of Bobby Charlton (a non-playing substitute) and Pele. This was the generation that would herald George Best and all the rubbish that came with it.1958 was saw the end of the gentleman generation.
So, how was Alan Hodgkinson’s World Cup? Well, not spectacular. The official FIFA record says he was in the squad, but other sources say that he and Maurice Setters didn’t even travel. It seems that nobody has ever thought to ask Mr Hodgkinson, although perhaps he can’t remember himself.