Main picture: Hudson with a group of township kids in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup where he helped run football training sessions.
I have not encountered many people who match my obsession with football. My late brother Stephen was certainly of the same ilk and I would apportion a fair share of the blame for my addiction to his tutelage. My son Tris is following the family tradition and we know where the blame lies fairly and squarely for that. Outside my immediate family one man stands out in terms of his passion as illustrated by his capacity to talk about football for hours on end, with no erosion of energy, indeed the very opposite as he became more and more animated as the conversation went on.
That man is Martin Hudson, whose funeral was held in Carlisle on Monday and how fitting it was that the mourners at the short service were regaled by the “Match of the Day” theme tune as they filed past his coffin; a coffin that was naturally draped in a Carlisle United scarf. Hudson didn’t just support Carlisle through thick and thin, mostly thin, but in the mid-1990s he became a central figure in the renaissance of the club during the Michael Knighton regime, using the exceptional organisational and persuasive skills that he had displayed from an early age. When he moved to Loretto School in Edinburgh he was horrified to discover that the school didn’t play football, so he rapidly organised a school team, much to the bemusement of the rugby obsessed headmaster.
Hudson was never one to back down even when things were stacked against him, which stood him in good stead when leaving a successful business career in London, where he had set up the fashion label Ghost, to return to his beloved Cumbria. Hudson became the sales and marketing manager at the club, revitalising their commercial operations. He was soon involved in clothing of a very different complexion, as the local paper News & Star reported shortly after his death was announced. “Mr Hudson was involved in establishing the Blues’ own Red Fox label which made replica shirts, and helped increase United’s commercial turnover significantly. He was a popular and respected figure among fans, and was also involved with supporters trust CCUIST.”
Here’s a tribute from Carlisle United reporter Jon Colman of local paper News and Star https://www.newsandstar.co.uk/sport/19832729.tribute-martin-hudson-man-brought-modern-style-carlisle-united/
Ironically nothing emphasised Hudson’s positive impact on the club’s fortunes as well as the deep affection he inspired in the fans than his departure, as illustrated by this story from close friend Jono Vernon-Powell. “And although it was a sad day when he decided to resign in protest at the way Mervyn Day was sacked as the team manager in 1997, it led to one of the more pleasant moments in Martin’s modest, yet extensive, life. When he attended the Spurs v Carlisle League Cup game a few days later, in addition to the queuing Carlisle fans, on seeing him, chant “Loyal Supporter, Loyal Supporter”. At half time, the whole away end of 5,000 fans, joined in unison to sing “There’s only one Martin Hudson, one Martin Hudson, there’s only one Martin Hudson”.
Even though working at Brunton Park was Hudson’s dream (as he said ‘the only job I really want is working for Carlisle United’), he steadfastly refused to compromise on his principles, as exemplified by his resignation at the shoddy treatment of Day. The fact that the current first team squad and staff lined up as the funeral cortege passed the ground speaks volumes, especially as it is almost a quarter of a century since he worked there. What is even more remarkable is that such a tribute was dedicated to someone not involved directly in the football side of the club. One cannot imagine there would be many commercial managers who would receive such a send-off.
Aside from his unwavering commitment to all things Carlisle, he enjoyed many trips supporting England across the globe. His endearing charm came to the fore when travelling abroad, especially at World Cup Finals. As Dave Pattinson started his moving eulogy at the funeral service “Have you ever met anyone …quite so talkative as Martin?” He was the natural front man, being equally at home chatting to the carabinieri as he was to a tough looking gang of fully tattooed favela residents. That he managed to make it to most of England’s games at last year’s Euros Finals was a fitting farewell to his support of his national team. It’s a pity that England fell at the final hurdle but that did not affect his unstinting support.
Hudson’s devotion to football was matched by his devotion to his family, often travelling up to Cumbria to visit his mother, Margaret from his Wiltshire home. He would always find time for his beloved daughters. As Vernon-Powell recalled “Martin was an incredibly proud father, never failing to share in Ellie & Alice’s latest exploits. In addition, to a backdrop of rolling eyes & blonde shaking heads, his ability to over-burden them with fountains of totally unwanted Dad-advice was as ‘admirable’ as it was ‘arduous’.”
In true Hudson style he also formed a strong bond with his partner Angie’s son Harry and they became very close in the last few years. I turn to Vernon-Powell for the closing tribute. “As his final months closed in, Angie’s love & devotion was incredible, tirelessly caring for him. Even on days when choosing not to wear her nurse’s outfit. Which resulted in Martin not only being able to continue looking on the brighter side of life, but also keeping him out of a hospice until his last few days.”
Having been diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer over a year ago and despite all the complications with Covid-restrictions, Hudson remained stoically cheerful in his last few months, with not a trace of self-pity or bitterness. The last time I ‘saw’ Martin was when he attended a football quiz on Zoom in December. Hooked up to breathing apparatus he was determined not to miss the opportunity to dig out one last piece of knowledge from his treasure trove of memories as captain of his team, the LLCs. And it is apposite that my next football quiz on 15th February will be dedicated to his honour and also we will raise money for the Dorothy House hospice*, which looked after him so well at the end of his rich and rewarding life.
There’s only one Martin Hudson.
*If you want to take part in the Zoom quiz on evening of Tuesday 15th February please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the link to the Dorothy House hospice if you would like to donate to this great cause – www.justgiving.com/martinhudson1960