An in-depth interview with Mark Hudson Part One: How Wagner’s Huddersfield adventure transformed me as a coach
- Captained Huddersfield to promotion to the Premiership - then retired in the wake of the Play-Off Final at Wembley
- Watched as German boss Wagner transformed the club then learned as a coach under his guidance
- Took Town’s Under-23 side on an inspirational journey that included a notable win over Bayern Munich on their own turf
- Educated in team-building and recruitment as he watched Malky Mackay rejuvenate Cardiff City
- Has spent time out concentrating on his UEFA pro licence - now ready for the next challenge
MARK HUDSON saw it all in a playing career in English football that spanned 18 years, six clubs and 436 games as a dominant centre-half, a captain and a leader of teams.
He battled against the likes of Didier Drogba, Duncan Ferguson and Sergio Aguero in his top flight days at Crystal Palace, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town.
As the time to hang up his boots loomed, football thinker Hudson came under the guidance of German coach David Wagner.
Here, in the first instalment of a compelling two-part Sport Careers Agency exclusive interview, Mark takes us inside the methods of an innovative coach and explains the Wagner Effect on him.
MARK HUDSON watched David Wagner's Young Boys send Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United spinning to a shock Champions League defeat and smiled to himself.
The charismatic German punched the air in delight, the Wankdorf Stadium rocked to its rafters and Hudson knew how every player in the Swiss underdogs' side felt.
After masterminding Huddersfield Town's unlikely rise to the Premiership, and keeping them in English football's Promised Land, Wagner was jettisoned as Season Two in the top flight turned sour.
A rocky spell in the Bundesliga with Schalke 04 then also ended in the sack but now Wagner is rejuvenated again.
Young Boys are riding high in the Swiss Super League and duelling with United, Atalanta and Villarreal in a fascinating Champions League section.
Mark isn't surprised, not one bit. He saw Wagner - capped as a striker for the USA because his stepfather was American - transform the mindset and playing style at Huddersfield.
It was a critical and formative time for Hudson the would-be coach and he said: "David was totally different from what I had experienced before.
"He came in and spoke in his second language and we were a bottom half of the Championship squad with some sceptics in the dressing-room.
"Yet he would show us an elite team doing what he wanted, then he showed us how it was going to work in the session.
"Then we would go out and train it and we broke each part of the game down and he coached it.
"I had come from managers who had used analysis but normally on the opposition and not so much on how we are going to play and develop.
"It was about our style against their style, trends of the opposition. He was different level."
Day by day, session by session Huddersfield improved and in May 2017 they won what many rate as football's richest game in a penalty shoot-out against Reading to battle out of the Championship and unlock the door to the Premiership.
Mark saw that triumph as his crowning glory as a player and in the wake of that Wembley glory day he retired.
He was a sponge for knowledge then, soaking up the way Wagner worked. From veteran player to rookie coach.
And he reflected: "The messages were so clear and I was lucky to be transitioning from a player to a coach under David.
"I got to see how they worked as a staff and shadow him and it was fascinating.
"He would look three games ahead with the staff and we would periodise that spell in training and analysis. It was class."
Wagner saw the emerging coach in Hudson and handed him the reins of the club's Under-23 side.
Looking back on his coaching journey to date Mark knows that was a pivotal decision for his development.
He stressed: "My first real experience was in the Academy at Huddersfield which was a pressure-free environment.
"They had changed the Category of the Academy and the idea was simply to get players through to the first team.
"I loved it, as a learning route it is the perfect transition and you need that as a player. You are not ready for first team roles when you finish up without that.
"You have to learn to be yourself, you can see different things as an experienced player but football is borrowed learning. You have to deliver it YOUR way.
"Now I feel comfortable doing that, talking about how I want my teams to play and getting that across to players. It has to be authentic."
Wagner's protégé began to shine as he immersed himself in creating an imaginative training and playing calendar for his team who didn't have an established Games Programme as they went through that Academy overhaul.
Mark explained: "We weren't in a league but we organised games at Bayern Munich, Viktoria Plzen and teams like that.
"We beat Bayern in Germany and if someone had said to me I could do that with Huddersfield's youth team I'd have said you were mad.
"We won that game 2-1 and their coach was so complimentary which meant a lot, they were the kings of Europe at every age group.
"The next week we were in a friendly at the training ground, then we went to Italy and beat Udinese 4-0.
"Managing that and the expectations of those young players was a fascinating time, though, and it's a time I will always look back on and cherish."
The DNA of the coach Hudson is now was fashioned under Wagner at Huddersfield.
Yet its origins can be traced back to a spell working under Scot Malky Mackay at Cardiff City as he transformed the Welsh club and led them in a memorable campaign in Hudson's first career promotion to the Premiership.
Mark revealed: "I thought Malky's approach to creating a bond with players and building a team was superb.
"We only had 11 players when he came in and his recruitment was excellent, he had to fill that group up to compete.
"Not every signing was bang-on but he got the majority right to get us promoted to the Premiership.
"He was straight down the line, he said it like it was and I learned so much.
"You see people get longer than Malky got at Cardiff and still not get it right and he did it on a limited budget.
"Cardiff is a lot about location, the players and their families have to commit to the area in Wales and he researched the background of his signings superbly."
The lessons learned under Mackay, now in charge of Scottish Premiership side Ross County, have stayed with Mark as his coaching journey progresses.
He remained at Huddersfield as first team coach after Wagner's departure and worked with brothers Danny and Nicky Cowley when they took over the job.
Mark confessed: "It is a unique dynamic because they are so close and they have always been a coaching unit of two.
"Then they moved to a club with a big staff and you are trying to be a part of their dynamic and be a different voice.
"We kept the club up before I left in July last year, we were a sinking ship for a while and they left with their heads held high."
The Cowleys are now at English League One club Portsmouth and Hudson has spent his time out of the game focusing on earning his coveted Pro Licence from the Welsh FA.
He has just completed his exit interview and the process is on the cusp of completion.
Mark said: "I've got one more task to go when I will shadow a leader, it's been 18 months of my life.
"During that time I still had my Huddersfield contract and if you're going to be out of a job in football then getting paid is a bonus.
"That meant I could focus properly on my Pro Licence. I think if I was working in the game then I might have been half-hearted on both working and learning.
"I wouldn't have done either aspect proper justice and in some ways I am happy I have had this time out.
"Yet now that the COVID restrictions are easing I have been going into clubs and spent some time at Sheffield United watching how Paul Heckingbotham and Jack Lester work.
"They are delivering sessions to prepare the Academy players to jump into the first team at any given time and I wanted to see how those ideas were being put into place.
"I have also been given the chance to coach the Welsh Under-18s and that's my opportunity to get back on the grass and coach.
"I've applied for some jobs but I understand the jump for people to commit to a first-time manager."
As a player Mark was captain of Charlton Athletic, Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town.
Gaffers of the calibre of Mackay and Wagner entrusted him with the role of leading their teams.
Hudson smiled: "You don't get given the captain's armband if you're a !
"I enjoy being a leader, I saw it as an honour and it is all about connecting people.
"That's something I have focused on since coming on the Pro Licence, I've studied all the leadership styles and how they can translate into coaching.
"Mine is without doubt about how you connect people and get them to believe in the same mission.
"I was doing that without knowing it as a captain on the field.
"The modern coach is driven towards understanding people more.
"Look at Neil Warnock and how he delivers and he knows he will get buy-in from some and drop-off from others and that's how he operates.
"There is more of a holistic approach to coaching now, though, where you have to have an understanding of people.
"You have to manage upwards with Technical Directors and owners and you have to understand how to sit in a room and connect with them and get your message across.
"I spoke to Paul Heckingbotham about that at Sheffield United who felt he could have done that better in his time at Hibernian."
So what next for Mark Hudson as he emerges from a spell of learning into a new post-pandemic football world?
He admitted: "In the past I would have wanted to be a manager, the no1.
"And, yes, I would love to do that but I would also look at working in a coaching unit where I can learn again.
"I look at something like David Moyes' coaching group at West Ham and the way they work together and something like that would be a compelling choice."
MARK HUDSON ON THE SERVICE HE RECEIVED FROM SPORT CAREERS AGENCY
"I got introduced to the Managing Director Piero Carrino through David Marshall at Cardiff City a long time ago and then again when I was finishing up my UEFA A licence.
"So at that time you begin to think of your CV. At my A Licence he did a superb presentation and that set me thinking.
"My CV looks brilliant and the fact that Sport Careers Agency are so well regarded by the Welsh FA meant a lot to me because I rate how I have been treated in my licences there very highly.
"If the Welsh FA backed them, that was enough for me. My CV has set me up for my journey for sure."
IN PART TWO OF THE MARK HUDSON INTERVIEW...
THIS Saturday (October 16) Mark looks back on his one game as caretaker manager in charge of Huddersfield Town...when he faced Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.
He also gives a fascinating insight into the strikers he faced in his playing career from Drogba to Ferguson and Aguero to a surprising revelation of one of the toughest he played against.
Make Part Two part of your weekend reading on the Sport Careers Agency website.