Chelsea and Stoke City legend Alan Hudson, who has battled cancer, says he owes his life to the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Hudson turned to the players’ union for help a couple of years ago after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Struggling financially and also recovering from a devastating car accident, he is now keen to give the PFA credit.
“I was in a desperate situation, seriously ill, and my life was in jeopardy,” said Hudson, who won two England caps.
“It was a massive shock to hear that I had cancer, but my union stepped in during my hour of need.
“The Professional Footballers’ Association helped me stay alive.”
He added: “When I asked the PFA for help, they got me in for surgery and made sure I received the right follow up treatment.
“That’s how good they were - I’ll never forget them for that.
“They do so much good work, often unheralded, and I’m absolutely amazed at some of the criticism that comes their way from parts of the national media.”
Hudson bears the scars from 60 operations when he was knocked over by a hit-and-run driver in London in 1997.
His body shattered, he was in a coma for two months, and the accident still haunts him.
Hudson, now in remission from cancer, said: “When I came out of the coma, the doctors said they couldn’t believe that I’d survived because I was so seriously injured.
“I broke seven ribs, an eye socket, a cheek bone, my sternum and nose.
“I also had a ruptured kidney and my pelvis was smashed to pieces.
“Then I had gangrene in both legs - they were going to chop them off.
“Even if I survived, they said I’d probably never walk again - but I did.”
Hudson says he will always be grateful to the PFA and the medical staff at the Royal London Hospital who helped saved his life as he fought for survival against all the odds.
“That hospital was the scene of my greatest triumph: when I refused to die.
“Winning that battle was more special and rewarding than my proudest 90 minutes on a pitch (senior debut for England) v West Germany at Wembley in 1975.”
Reliving one of his favourite moments in a Stoke City shirt during an interview with the PFA he recalls a First Division title clash with Liverpool watched by 45,000 supporters at the Victoria Ground.
It was vintage Liverpool: Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence, Steve Heighway, Emlyn Hughes and John Toshack.
But Hudson’s mentor, Tony Waddington, helped inspire Stoke to a famous victory.
“Tony Waddington, the greatest manager Stoke ever had, conned me in to playing that day,” he smiled.
“It was Easter, I think, we’d played 3 games in 5 days or something daft, and the pitch was bone hard.
“I said, ‘Boss I can’t play on that, my knees are shot.
“Anyway, he got Stoke Fire Brigade to flood the pitch.
“A couple of hours later it was a mud bath, and when I got down there Tony had put my boots out.
“Kevin Keegan was in shock and said: “Where’s this rain come from Huddy (Hudson)?
“It was lovely and dry when we left the hotel.”
I said: ‘Kev, it is Stoke mate – you get dodgy weather in the Potteries.”
When Hudson was transferred from Chelsea to Stoke City in 1974 for £240,000, he earned £125 a week.
“Football is the beautiful game, but my previous lives have gone now,” he said.
“I have to forget what I used to do.
“I can’t put my tracksuit on and go running any more.
“When I have a party with my friends every year on December 15, they say: ‘Why are you celebrating the anniversary of your accident.’
I reply, ‘I’m celebrating still being here.
“I’m Alan Hudson – the lucky man.”
Hudson was a UEFA Cup hero with Chelsea against Real Madrid in 1971 and always wears his medal around his neck.
“Some of the Chelsea lads have sold them but I wear it every day,” he said.
“I don’t have it to be flash – it holds a great significance and gives me a good sense of achievement.
“I like to remember those special times – like the supporters do.
“We’re all fans in one way or another aren’t we?
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor says the union is always there for players falling on hard times.
Mr Taylor said: “Alan was a gifted player who suffered personal and health problems that we (PFA) did our best to help with.
“Our help is as confidential as the member wishes it to be.
“We have a 24-hour confidential helpline for all PFA members offering counselling, therapy, medical treatment, operations, funding for education and legal assistance.
By Tony Dewhurst
24/7 Helpline and Support Network
The PFA Charity provides members with a 24/7 counselling telephone helpline.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 24hr Counselling Helpline: 07500 000 777