Stoke City legend Alan Hudson recalls the day he almost lost his battle for life
Fifteen years ago, Stoke City legend Alan Hudson almost died after being knocked down by a car, which he claims was an attempt on his life. Martin Spinks reports ...
IT was no accident, says Alan Hudson, it was attempted murder. It was the moment 15 years ago today that one life ended and another began.
He was walking through the streets of London, minding his own business, when he was hit by a car, flung through the air and left drifting in and out of a coma for the next eight-and-a-half-weeks.
He was no accidental victim, but a deliberate target, an extraordinary claim he now makes after extensive research into the events which should have killed him at the age of 46.
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He is certain he knows whose hand was behind the plot, but libel laws prevent the Stoke City legend identifying who in this newspaper.
It sounds like the beginning of an Ian Rankin mystery, but after more than 70 operations over the years to piece his body back together, and keep it together, he insists his story is autobiography, not pure fiction.
Now 61 and 15 years into his third life (his second began the day he met Stoke City manager Tony Waddington in 1974), Hudson says: "After looking at everything, I know it was no accident and I know where it all came from.
"I am re-writing my book, The Working Man's Ballet, and when I put it in there I'm hoping someone will read it and come forward.
"The police closed the case before they had interviewed me, now I want it re-opened and the truth to come out."
He sounds bitter, understandably so, but he isn't, for he believes he was spared death for some reason.
To describe his injuries as multiple is like describing a war wound as a mere scratch, for no distant corner of his body escaped punishment that December day in 1997.
He spent a year in hospital – before they eventually chucked him out because he kept nipping to a nearby pub to watch live football – and he would lose half his bodyweight in plunging to around seven stone.
He also came within minutes of losing both legs, a fate that would have led to certain suicide he now admits.
"I'd been on the exercise bike for two hours on the day this all started," he recalls, "so my legs were everything to me. I'd run the streets in the middle of the night if I couldn't sleep.
"I know if I had lost them, I'd have saved up all my sleeping tablets, waited until my next birthday, had a great party and then, when everyone had gone, taken all the pills."
He was on anti-depressants for three years after the crash, while the morphine would dull the immense physical pain.
"Yes, there were dark times. Being alone in the dark in hospital, paralysed from the waist down for four months, not being able to sleep and knowing I'd never be able to run again.
"And although I spent 12 months in hospital in total, my biggest operations actually came after.
"I can't tell you what it means not to have to wear a colostomy bag for instance. It's very traumatic, especially for someone who was an athlete and wore nice clothes, to be out with friends and get caught without warning. I was having to throw clothes out like there was no tomorrow."
The support of family and friends – not least his adopted 'family' in Stoke – would play a major role in his eventual rehabilitation.
"I remember Jackie Marsh coming to visit me and crying when he saw me. At least I didn't have to look at myself because I refused a mirror for three or four months.
"Other players like Peter Fox and Brendan O'Callaghan would come, and plenty of others from Stoke would visit me.
"I had so many cards they filled all four walls of my hospital room. When the doctors came in they'd spend 15 minutes reading them before I'd say: 'Oi, I thought you were here to examine me!'
"I looked through all those cards later on and I'd say 65 to 70 per cent were from Stoke.
"One old lady wrote me a lovely letter, and I'd only ever met her once when I helped her onto a bus in Stoke town centre.
"Things like that, plus the strength I'd gained from playing against Leeds United all those years before, it all helped."
So what sustains him these days, some 15 years into his third existence?
"I truly believe that if you lose your sense of humour you lose everything. That's key to it.
"Also, I can still see people around who are a lot worse off than me. In hospital, at least I had family and friends coming to see me, but I saw others in there who had no-one and that must have been the loneliest thing in the world."
Alcohol and writing – not unfamiliar bedfellows – are also significant factors in his on-going battle to survive the collateral damage of 15 years ago.
He's heard all the quips about his drinking down the years, but firmly denies he is an alcoholic.
"I drink because I want to, not because I need to, and that's the big difference," he says. "Not that it bothers me what people say, but I regard myself as a social drinker, someone who likes being with friends and having a laugh. I'm not a problem drinker because I can handle it.
"The only time I had a problem was when I drank too close to a game and that only happened on a handful of occasions.
"There was the time when I rolled in at two in the morning before a game at Arsenal and then scored the winner, but I have to admit what happened that day was more luck than judgment.
"As for the writing, that started when I was in America in 1981. But then when I was recovering in hospital, a friend bought me a brand new laptop and told me the doctors said I'd need it. They were right."
And so to December 15, 2012. Will it be marked with a few tears in a darkened room, or with a couple of drinks by way of celebrating his survival?
"I'll do what I always do on that date," he says. "I will have a drink myself, but I'll also pour a gin and tonic for Mr Waddington.
"Neither he nor my dad were around when I was in hospital, but I know they both helped to get me here today.
"It was just like my playing days because I played for them first, then myself third."
ALAN Hudson's last book, The Playing Fields To The Killing Fields, is now on Kindle and his next work, Don't Shoot The Taliban You'll Wake The Locals, will also be available there next week.