MBE for Hodgkinson in New Year Honours

"IF you buy this guy he'll win you the title."

That was what former Worksop Town and England goalkeeper Alan Hodgkinson told Sir Alex Ferguson about a young shot-stopper he'd spotted on a scouting trip to Denmark in the early 1990s.

Peter Schmeichel did indeed help Manchester United win a title, five of them, and he also provides one of many grand moments in a long list of memories Hodgkinson has garnered in more than six decades in football.

And now the 71-year-old – who was born in Laughton and brought up in Thurcroft, and made 675 appearances for Sheffield United – has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours list.

"The award is the icing on the cake, not only for my family, but for all the people I have worked with in my footballing career," Hodgkinson told the Guardian this week.

Alan Hodgkinson also worked with the England Under 21 under Dave Sexton.

He is still working now, as goalkeeper coach at Blue Square Conference club Oxford United.

At a spritely 71 Hodginson believes he has another good five years left in football, five more seasons that will take him up to more than 60 years in football.

And it all started in the early 1950s in the Mindland League with Worksop Town. The 16-year-old Hodgkinson made only a handful of appearances for Worksop before signing for Sheffield United in 1953, a club he stayed with for 18 years.

"I've got great memories of playing for Worksop," said Hodgkinson.

"For pre-season training we used to start at the cricket ground and then set off running through the town."

"I played my first match at a real league ground for Worksop when I played at the Shay against Halifax Town."

"As a 16-year-old boy it was wonderful to be travelling to all these places like Scarborough to play football."

"I once played for Worksop against Nottingham Forest Reserves at the City Ground and I saved two penalties."

"The Forest chairman came into the dressing room at the end and gave me a 10-bob note."

He added: "I have an affinity to the people of Worksop for launching my career. I'll be forever grateful."

It was with Sheffield United that Hodgkinson earned the first of his England caps in April 1957.

"My first act for England was to pick the ball out of the net, in front of 100,000 watching England v Scotland," he said. “Scotland scored with their very first attack.”

“But it was a great England side with legends like Stanley Matthews and Tom Finney.”

“It was a fantastic experience for me.”

Hodgkinson played five times for England, four of them in 1957 and again in 1960.

He had an enviable record of never being on a losing side for England, winning four games and conceding only five goals.

He added: “I played for England 50 years ago but it still feels like five minutes ago.”

“There was no football on the telly in the 50s, you had to go to the cinema to watch news reports of England games.”

“I went to the cinema every day to watch myself playing for England.”

WHEN his playing days were over, Hodgkinson made the switch to coaching effortlessly.

He began as reserve team coach at Sheffield United but after four years was appointed assistant manager at Gillingham.

After six years the coaching staff were sacked and for the first time in his life, Hodgkinson was unemployed.

“I rang every manager in the Football League to offer my services as a goalkeeper coach.”

“I was inundated with offers, so sold my house in Kent and moved to the Midlands where I was closer to the motorways and could get to grounds all over the country.”

Hodgkinson worked with Neville Southall at Everton, Peter Shilton at Derby and Andy Goram with the Scottish national team.

But for him, there’s no-one as good as the tall goalkeeper he spotted playing in Denmark.

“Schmeichel was an immense guy and an immense goalkeeper. The best I’ve worked with,” he added.

Hodgkinson cast his net even further when he started working with the England set-up, firstly alongside Dave Sexton and the Under 21s and then with the senior team.

“I advised them to take a goalkeeper coach with the England set-up,” he added.

To say he was a pioneer of goalkeeper coaches is an understatement.

Hodgkinson has had a glittering career in football, and has given as much to the game as the game has given him. The awarding of an MBE is a fitting way for the former Dinnington Secondary Modern pupil and Thurcroft Youth Club player to be remembered.

“I’m forever grateful for everything in my career,” he added.