Dons manager Hodges on his youth in Merton
BY TOBY PORTER
Glyn Hodges knows – probably more than most former Premier League footballers – what Wimbledon means.
The 56-year-old, appointed Dons boss on October 23, was part of the Wimbledon team which won promotion to the top flight nine years after being elected to the Football League.
Perhaps more important than that, he was born and raised within a few of miles of Plough Lane – the club’s spiritual home.
Hodges lived in Mitcham and went to school in Pollards Hill and at Eastfields School.
He still visits his neighbours from those days – Mr and Mrs Roma – and is godfather to their son.
From school he was scouted by the Dons’ legendary youth set-up and went on to play 273 games for Dave Bassett’s legendary Crazy Gang, scoring 55 goals.
His career later took in clubs further afield such as Newcastle United, Watford, Crystal Palace, Sheffield United, Derby County, Hull City, Nottingham Forest and Scarborough.
But he knows the huge responsibility he faces in trying to steer the club to safety this term – so they can start life back in Plough Lane still in League One.
He said: “It is fantastic that the club is going back to where it belongs. Imagine it – because of how long it’s been.
“I see it is a privilege to be involved in this club at this stage in its history. It is fantastic news for everyone that we will be back there next season. But we can’t help but have one eye on that. We all know where we want to be when the first game kicks off.
“To join the club in 1979 and come through the academy and the youth team and get into the first team and represent this area is such a big thing for me.
“I am from the area and stay in touch with the people I know from this area from when I was young. To get back to a new ground as a local lad who is the manager – that would be amazing.”
Hodges was appointed full-time on October 23 following disciplinary action by the FA on previous boss Wally Downes. He is keen to build on the form from the end of last season which helped keep them in this division.
“It was massive to get the appointment,” said Hodges. “I found it a really difficult situation. I’ve been trying to protect Wally and myself from the fallout but it was hard to be in the middle of the process. I was getting microphones shoved in my face and being asked questions about what will happen next and was not able to say anything.
“I am disappointed Wally is not here anymore.
“But he understood that if I was offered the job that I would have to take it. I want to continue the good work he started and try to get this team performing.
“The players and all the staff have been terrific since I started working for the club in December.
“They had not won in two months – and did not know where the next when was coming from – but turned it around.
“We need to build on that and restore belief. The players are back in a confident place I felt we were in the game at Burton and a bit of quality in the final third and you can nick it. Now we must be at it in every game.”
Hodges will play a flexible formation on the pitch. He said: “Our two centre forwards should be dynamic so I like to play two up front but it can be 3-4-3 and we went to 4-3-3 against Burton when we were chasing the game at the end.
“I want to be able to mix it. We have pushed on in the last few months and I am seeing signs of progress. We need to give our all and leave nothing out there to give ourselves the best chance of getting results. With a bit of luck and skill and we can get there.”
The new manager’s squad are learning about his methods.
“I’m just going to be myself,” he said. “My assistant Nicky Daws will be himself. But we will gel together with our different roles whatever happens.
“We are both really organised – that’s a given – and we need to get this club moving forward.”
Hodges was cagey about transfer dealings in the next window.
“We have one eye on what might happen,” he said. “Last year they got in Ben Purrington from Norwich but Rotherham wanted him back and then sent him to Charlton. We want to make sure we protect any signings. We are looking to kick on.”