SA basks in Hodgson relation

2012-05-02 16:47

London - Hillview High School in Pretoria can claim to have been the starting point of Roy Hodgson's coaching career which has now spanned four decades and culminated in the England manager's job.

Hodgson took a part-time job as a physical education teacher and coached the school's soccer teams when he went to South Africa to play in his late 20s from 1973 to 1974.

Headmaster JM Hepburn said the school was delighted to discover the connection.

"We are still a competitive school at soccer, we don't play any rugby here," he told Reuters from a city traditionally more obsessed with the oval ball game.

Hodgson is remembered by some of the youngsters he took charge of when asked to also coach the Northern Transvaal provincial under-13 side at the national championship in Durban in 1974.

"I was too young to notice anything that might have suggested he would one day become manager of England," quipped former striker Noel Cousins, "but he must have been good because we went on to win the tournament which hadn't happened for the province in years."

Among the talented team was Roy Wegerle, who later played for Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers and appeared at two World Cup tournament's for the United States after leaving South Africa and marrying an American.

Sportswriter Neal Collins was also on the fringes of the squad and said Hodgson was an outstanding youth coach.

"He taught us to bend our passes with both feet 'like Norman Hunter' and emphasised movement off the ball," Collins blogged this week (

"He wasn't too good with dealing with angry parents but he certainly enhanced our skills."

Hodgson's brief stint in South Africa was the subject of a potentially prickly question at his first news conference as England manager on Tuesday, when he was asked to explain his decision to work in the country in the time of apartheid.

Hodgson said he had not given the political system much thought at the time and went because he craved a full-time career in the game.

Like many British footballers at the time, he had been invited to play in the whites-only league, in Hodgson's case with struggling Pretoria club Berea Park.

"We were team-mates together at Maidstone and I got him out to play in South Africa," said Bobby Houghton, who kick-started Houghton's full-time coaching career by later arranging a job for him at Halmstad in Sweden.

Houghton was player-coach at Berea for a short stint but left Hodgson behind when he went to Sweden to begin a successful career at Malmo, culminating in a European Cup final appearance.

"I haven't had a chance to congratulate him yet," said Houghton, who lives in Cape Town and was last the coach of India. "But I was the best man at his wedding and we've still kept in touch over all the years."