Wally Downes knew when he and Glyn Hodges might just make a managerial partnership. “When we played for Wimbledon and [Dave] Bassett made us play direct, we got on with it,” Downes explains. “We wanted to play a little bit more than we did, but we needed to be effective. We were the disparate voices in the dressing room.
“Bassett knew that we were more imaginative than perhaps some of the team, who were more functional. We used to sit in the corner together and if either of us was getting a coating, I’d sort of take it on the chin but Hodge was a bolshie f—– and if he knew it was coming, he would have the programme out.
“Harry would say, ‘put the programme down, Glyn’ and he would say, ‘I ain’t putting it down, he’s talking a load of b——-’. So Harry would shout, ‘put the f—— programme down’. I would think, ‘oh s—, he’s brought attention to us now’. ‘Hodge, we are losing 2-0, we ain’t got enough f—— crosses in, don’t’. He used to p— him [Bassett] off something rotten.”
The language is as ripe and colourful as the stories when Downes gets going but it is extraordinary that 40 years after they first met as teenagers he and Hodges, who played on opposite flanks in Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang days in the 1980s, are only now working together for the first time.
Downes was appointed manager of League One Wimbledon last month and always had it in his mind to bring Hodges with him. “It was very short and sweet,” Hodges says. “He was in India and had just had the first interview. He texted me and said, ‘have a look at this – do you want to get involved?’ I said, ‘yes, I’ll be your northern scout’ because I was based in north Notts. And he just said, ‘no, I’m talking about assistant manager’. So, straight away I said ‘yes, perfect’. That was it.”