A phone call to Mark Hughes put Glyn Hodges on the pathway to an exciting coaching career that now spans almost two decades.
Now, as assistant manager at AFC Wimbledon, Glyn is aiming to utilise his wealth of experience from working at top-flight clubs.
For those supporters that missed it in the matchday programme for Plymouth, the full interview is reproduced in full below.
Life could have turned out very differently for Glyn Hodges without the intervention in 2004 of Manchester United great Mark Hughes, known as 'Sparky' in his playing days. Mark was then managing the Welsh national side. Hughes offered Glyn the role of U21 manager for the country he had served as a player, just as Glyn was about to accept a completely different coaching challenge in the USA.
"I'd left Barnsley because there was a takeover and a new manager had been put in place," said Glyn when we caught up with him last week. "I'd been offered a coaching job in Pasadena, and I'd agreed to take it. It wasn't an MLS club, but a club run by the players' parents, who chaired it and funded it. I'd made plans to sell the house over here and put stuff in storage, and I was all ready to move to the USA. I hadn't signed the contract, but I'd been over there to sort out where I was going to live, and I even put the kids into a school there.
"I needed what was called an O Visa, and I was able to get one because I'd played international football, for Wales. I also had to get a reference from someone working at the FA of England, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland. When I contacted Mark Hughes, he said, 'I've been trying to get hold of you!' He told me he wanted to offer me the job of Wales U21 manager. I said I couldn't because I was too far down the line with the job in America.
"When I put the phone down, I had second thoughts. I called Mark back and asked him to give me the weekend to think about it. And then I called him again and said I wanted the job. I just couldn't turn down the chance to work at international level."
Though Glyn's role with the Welsh FA lasted less than a year, because Hughes left his post, the former Wimbledon FC player then followed him to Blackburn as reserve-team manager. Glyn subsequently worked with Hughes at Manchester City, Blackburn, Queens Park Rangers, Fulham and Stoke City. Glyn enjoyed working with young talents aiming to reach the top as well as established stars who had won honours, including winning the Champions League.
"If you look at my coaching CV, you'll see I've worked for 13 or 14 years with Mark Hughes. I've also worked with Harry Bassett and Wally Downes, but it's not just about who you know. If you can't do the job, they can't give you it. I just wanted to be the best that I could, and it's been good – I've enjoyed coaching with players at different levels.
"It's great when you work with players who are making their way towards the top. They listen to everything you say! I've had a part to play in coaching players that have played in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the World Cup. When I was in charge of the reserves at Man City, Kieran Trippier was a player coming through. It obviously wasn't just me who helped him, but you take satisfaction in having an input and helping to make a difference in the careers of young players.
"At Blackburn I was coaching U23s and reserves, but also working closely with the first team. You'd go to the games and be upstairs, but in the dressing room too, in amongst it. When we were at Man City I took sessions with the first-team squad and got involved with working with them.
"I worked with Mark Hughes at Blackburn, Man City and Fulham. I was first-team coach at Fulham when we finished eighth in the Premier League. Then we went to QPR, and I was in charge of the academy. I set the whole syllabus and coaching programme. I set everything up when the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPP) came in. We had to achieve Category 2, which we did, so that was very satisfying. At Stoke City I worked with the U23s, and I had a good relationship with Mark Hughes, Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. It was very much hands on with the first team as well. In one training session I was coaching five Champions League winners: Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay, Bojan Krkić, Marko Arnautović and Jesé Rodriguez."
Glyn's first job in coaching was at Barnsley, where he was appointed reserve-team manager, and he also had two spells there as caretaker manager. At the end of his playing days, he put his heart and soul into coaching and quickly worked his way through his coaching badges. After gaining his UEFA Pro licence, Glyn was invited to do the LMA's Certificate of Applied Management at Warwick University – a challenge he thrived on.
"I was 36 when I stopped playing. I'd been lucky to play for so long, but I couldn't carry on playing for ever. I wanted to stay in the game so that I could build up my coaching career. I spent four or five years getting all my badges, doing all the modules and everything. I just thought, 'I'll go for it, and get it out of the way.' You have to revalidate your coaching qualification every three years. When I go along to do that now, there aren't so many of my age – they all seem to be young up-and-coming coaches."
Glyn was born in Streatham and played for Mitcham Royals as a youngster before joining the Dons. He says that being a part of Wimbledon's remarkable success in the 1980s, when the club was rapidly promoted from the old Fourth Division to the First, was the perfect football education.
"I joined Wimbledon straight from school and left at the age of 24. The experiences and beliefs you had then help to make you the person you are today. The success we had showed that we had the right values. We were regarded as a long-ball team, but though I wasn't brought up to play that way, I bought into it. I thought, 'This is the way you win games.' Players can be true to their philosophy, but then they can get relegated and lose their job. It's about winning games, and there are different ways to do that. With Wimbledon everyone had their own job to do. We trusted each other, and it was a great learning curve.
"The manager, Harry Bassett, was ahead of his time, and there was a unique bond between the players. Five or six players came through the youth team, and proved to be good enough to play at the top level. Every test we faced, we stepped up to it. Every time we went up a level, we proved we were good enough. When we got up to the First Division we stepped up to that too, and we just got better and better. Our confidence was massive. The story of the journey we went on and all the promotions we achieved in such a short space of time becomes more special as the years go by. No club has been able to repeat it."
Glyn had no hesitation in accepting the opportunity to return to Wimbledon when he got the call from Wally Downes. "There were a couple of jobs I was really close to accepting after I left Stoke, including one I didn't really want to do, but then this one came up. Wally contacted me, and I said 'Yes!' straight away. I had no hesitation in accepting it. To come back here is brilliant.
"We're under no illusions about the job. It's going to be very difficult – we knew that when we accepted it, and the players know that too. We just need to have that little bit more belief in ourselves, and if we can get a couple of back-to-back wins it would make a big difference. We are running out of games, but we have a busy period coming up, and we need to get wins on the board quickly. Sometimes you make your own luck, but we do need luck. We have to make sure we're in a position to win games."