This week I was excited to once again be a journalist, because it allowed me to interview the legendary Ray Hudson. I was educated as a journalist. While attending Marian Central High School I spent a summer at Northwestern University’s National High School Institute for Journalism. I also served as sports editor of the Marian Crown. In college I covered Marquette football (as it was) for the Marquette Tribune and Marquette and Milwaukee Bucks basketball for United Press International. After graduating with a BA in Journalism I made a conscious decision that changed my life – I turned my back on my field of training and pursued a career in sports administration instead.
Twenty five years after “retiring” from journalism I began writing my own blog focusing on American soccer. Seventeen months and 169 posts later, I stopped writing again. After a four month “retirement”, Pitch Invasion Editor Tom Dunmore gave me the opportunity to rejoin the ranks of soccer journalists and commentators through this weekly column. Then last month a weekly radio show, “Soccer Saturday Presented By The Milwaukee Wave”, debuted on ESPN 540 AM with the Red, White and Blue segment hosted by yours truly. In the last two months, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some of my favorite people in American soccer including Piotr Nowak, Mike Sorber, Dave Sarachan, Tony Sanneh, Frank Klopas, Casey Nogueira and last Saturday, the incomparable Ray Hudson.
Ray’s vocabulary and Geordie-American accent make for a terrific interview. Ask a simple question and he dramatically and eloquently runs with the reply like a freshly hooked tarpon until there is no line remaining. The statistics for this interview were five questions and eight minutes of artistic answers:
Soccer Saturday Studio Host Matt Salmon: Joining us now is a man who was a five time All Star in the NASL, coached DC United (and Miami Fusion) and now is a commentator for Gol TV. It’s a real treat to welcome Ray Hudson to the program. Ray, from a fan’s standpoint, you started your career with Newcastle United. I’m wearing one of my three Magpie jerseys. What’s it like as a fan playing for the black and white stripes and how excited are you to see them coming back and playing in the Premiership?
Ray Hudson: Well, first of all, it was beyond a thrill, because obviously I was from Newcastle. I was born and raised there right on the banks of the Tyne, so when you grow up in that atmosphere and you grow up in that city and you’re able to represent the Magpies, it’s something extremely special in the same way the kid growing up in Barcelona would be, you know that communal thing, a very, very special attachment. The fans really truly identify with their own kind and have a special place in their hearts for those kids who come through from the area a la Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle, Peter Beardsley. You know they take them especially to heart. You know it was a life’s ambition fulfilled and it was absolutely spectacular. The fact they’re back amongst the big boys now is exciting. It’s where the club belongs. I’m not so sure it’ll be a yo-yo season. They’re going to have to spend a bit of money to get a bit of class in that midfield I think and strengthen the side, but it’s great to be back among the Premiership and looking forward to next season absolutely.
Peter J. Wilt: I want to play a little bit of name association with names out of your past and the first one was brought up by (the Milwaukee Wave’s) Head Coach Keith Tozer. He said “Ask Ray about Minnesota Strikers Goalkeeper Tino Lettieri“. What do you recall about him?
RH: He’s a NUT CASE! He was a complete NUT that guy with all them parrots and the crazy shenanigans and running around after players. Tino was fabulous, a great personality. His personality would light up any stadium and he was a tremendous little goalkeeper, perfect for the indoor game and a character in the locker room and a leader on the field. You know, other than the parrot thing that I could never get my head around. I mean this guy had this obsession with parrots that you would have no idea. It was that everybody thought it was a little gimmick, a little marketing tool for him, but he had this obsession, this fetish with a bloody parrot. I don’t know what that’s about, but a great lad, great lad.
PJW: The next one is about your assistant coach with both the Miami Fusion and DC United. He’s now come to Wisconsin as the Head Coach of the University of Wisconsin, John Trask.
RH: Wiscy can be thoroughly proud of its new coach at University of Wisconsin. They do not come any better as a person, more importantly for the program, they do not come any better as a football tactician. John is a tremendous inspiration to any player with ability, especially any player that is possibly going to make the break through. He is going to nurture in the best possible way, he’s one of those people that I can not say enough about. He belongs in MLS. He belongs in the top tier, he’s that good. I would put my beating heart in the hands of John Trask. I absolutely love him and again, it’s not just the personal affection, it’s a total respect for what he is as a footballing man.
PJW: And the final person I want to ask you about is an old friend or yours and mine who passed away a few years ago, the general manager of the Miami fusion when you had such success there, Doug Hamilton.
RH: Peter, there’s very few people that I would ever want to get back into the boxing ring that is professional football. One is yourself, Peter Wilt — who they don’t come any better than, my friend — but Doug Hamilton, for me, was the cream of the crop. Rest in peace, he was a wonderful, wonderful footballing man just like John. Had a wonderful insight. Did incredible things with the LA Galaxy obviously. But me and him went through the hammers of hell down here turning the Miami Fusion ship around and making them into a franchise that we were all immensely and intensely proud of and Doug was taken from all of us way, way too early. The biggest, saddest loss that MLS has ever seen leave its ranks.
PJW: I share your grief and share your wishes. He was a great man and a great soccer leader as well. I want to finish this segment and ask you about the US Men’s National Team heading into the World Cup, especially the forward situation. There are some people who want to see Herculez Gomez, who’s done so well in Mexico, and Edson Buddle, who’s done well in MLS with LA. Do you think they should be brought in?
RH: I think they should be brought in for a look in the next camp by Bob Bradley for sure. It’s hard to ignore the form that they’re in: when a player like a goal scorer gets in a goal scoring groove it’s a wonderful thing and it happens all over the world. At the moment, as I say, they’re on fire, just scoring goals for fun. What I like about Edson especially is his variety of goals. He’s not just a finisher, you know, a mop up man. He’s scoring from distance, he brings players into the game. He’s a poised player. He plays more often as a lone striker position, so I’m not sure that that will totally fit in with Bob’s plans, but it gives him a nice variation and of course Gomez has been rattling them in for Puebla. He’s a different type of pure finisher of course and you look at what he’s done in his past and it’s been modest, but I would say he definitely deserves a look by Bob.
If you enjoyed reading Ray’s words, I encourage you to listen to the second segment of the Soccer Saturday interview where Ray talks with Matt Salmon and MatchPricks bloggers Jim Kogutkiewicz and Colin Deval about England’s current goalkeeping situation, his Champion’s League wager on Inter Milan, Lionel Messi’s place among the all-time greats, Real Madrid’s circus, US hopes in Group C and his expectations of Wayne Rooney in South Africa.
The MatchPricks were kids on Christmas Eve each day leading up to their interview of Ray and on days like Saturday, I was grateful for my inquisitive mind and journalism degree.