IN THE 1960s, most boys had one of three common dreams growing up.

When England won the World Cup in 1966, some wanted to become footballers.

As mankind took ‘one giant leap’ on the moon in 1969, others dreamt of being an astronaut.

That decade, as The Beatles took over the world, plenty imagined themselves as future popstars.

But the ambition for Plymouth Argyle legend Kevin Hodges was undoubtedly to achieve his goal of a career in football.

Born in Broadwindsor, he grew up in Dorset transfixed by the mesmeric skills of Bobby Moore as he captained England to that famous 4-2 win over West Germany.

A fascination with West Ham developed. However, five-year-old Hodges first caught the eye playing for Drimpton School at under-11 level.

“I was football mad as a kid,” Hodges told Echosport. “I can always recall playing for my primary school.

“I was asked to play for the main team against Maiden Newton. I was five, playing on an 11 versus 11 pitch – you can imagine what it must’ve been like.

“I was stuck out on the wing and thought: ‘I’m not getting many touches here’ so I went wandering here, there and everywhere.

“That probably taught me a lesson to get involved and made me the player I was.”

Dorset Echo: Kevin Hodges is assistant manager at Dorchester Town Picture: PHIL STANDFIELDKevin Hodges is assistant manager at Dorchester Town Picture: PHIL STANDFIELD

And get involved he did. West Dorset Under-11s called Hodges up aged eight and Dorset honours soon followed.

While playing for the county on the old football pitch at Poole Pirates’ speedway stadium, Hodges enjoyed his first taste of floodlit action.

Suddenly, the spotlight was beamed on him as Bournemouth swooped for the talented winger.

“I got invited to a trial, I was 13,” Hodges said. “The aim was to get into the last 22 and they’d nominate eight players to go up for a week’s training during the school holiday.

“I missed out on that. I got to the last 22 but didn’t get the last eight. I thought I’d blown my chance.

“But six months later I got back again and got invited up. From that moment onwards I was involved in pro football.”

At Bournemouth, the West Ham links continued.

“I was a West Ham fanatic. I just liked the style of play. It must’ve been ’64 when they won the FA Cup and the following year won the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

“The World Cup in ’66 was a massive year. Bobby Moore was my role model. There was quite a bit of influence throughout my career with West Ham.”

In 1973, former Hammer John Bond was at Cherries’ helm. Bond and assistant Ken Brown worked closely with youth chief Reg Tyrrell.

Hodges said: “Reg liked me as a player and invited me to meet John after one of their games.

“He explained: ‘I want your mum and dad to come up but if (Bournemouth) lose, John may not want to speak to you!’

“They drew and we got to the board room. This is where I was in dreamland because Ron Greenwood was in the room – the West Ham manager, someone I looked up to.

“John said: ‘I know you want to be a professional footballer son, but not many people make it. Make sure you do your education.’ It was a memorable night.

“In the meantime, John went to Norwich with Ken, John Benson took over and there were players like Kevin Reeves, Steve Grit.

“Some of the lads were at Dorchester – Graham Roberts was one and Brian O’Donnell.

“The West Ham connection, Bobby Howe was under-18s coach and we got pulled in to do a crossing and finishing session.

“I was out on the right-hand side with Harry Redknapp, another West Ham connection!

“The ball went out wide and you had to take a touch and whip the ball in. Harry receives it and whips this ball in with such power and perfection.

“Then there’s me, who can barely reach the box with my delivery.

“Looking back, it was quite daunting but I think how privileged I was to be involved around first-team players at such a young age.

“It doesn’t happen so much now unless you’re an exceptional talent.”

Hodges progressed through the youth ranks and in 1975-76 won the South West & Wales League and Cup.

He was later faced with a crossroads when Bournemouth scrapped their youth team.

“Reg called me in and said they’re going to go more with older players,” he recalled.

“He said: ‘It’s down to you but we’ve got choices for you.’ I could’ve gone to Norwich.

“If I stayed with Bournemouth they were going to loan me out to the likes of Dorchester and Weymouth to get experience.

“Also, Plymouth were interested. In that time, Bobby Howe had moved to Plymouth and when he knew I was available he made contact with me.

“He sold Plymouth and it was one of those hard decisions. Bobby came up to speak to me and that was it, the rest is history.”

Dorset Echo: Kevin Hodges, left, playing for Plymouth in 1992 Picture: PLYMOUTH HERALDKevin Hodges, left, playing for Plymouth in 1992 Picture: PLYMOUTH HERALD

Some 620 games later, Hodges is still Argyle’s record appearance maker complete with 87 goals.

“It should’ve been 187 goals,” Hodges joked. “That’s probably one of my regrets, not getting 100.

“I used to get in the positions but needed to be more consistent.”

The West Ham links continued under former Hammers defender turned Plymouth boss Malcolm Allison.

“Malcolm was light-years ahead of himself,” Hodges said. “We got a local house in walking distance to the ground with people like Gary Megson, Martin Hodge, Mike Trusson and John Uzzell.

“We lived together and ex-player George Robertson, and his wife June, looked after us.

“Even in those days Tony Waiters (ex-England goalkeeper) was thinking about nutrition.

“I can recollect travelling to Mansfield and I was 13th man, so I didn’t play. The two strikers that would normally play, (Allison) played them out wide as wingers.

“We had to hit diagonal balls and flooded the midfield. He was thinking and experimenting, which was very unusual.

“It was an eye-opener from a young age to see that and it certainly took some courage. He was a good manager to play for.”

Lennie Lawrence, reserve team boss, fielded Hodges at combination level where he would gain experience of playing at big clubs like West Ham and Tottenham – albeit in empty stadiums.

Allison handed Hodges his debut aged 18 at Bury and played out of position at right-back as cover for the suspended Brian Bason.

But the occasion was tinged with sadness. “I had a decision to make,” Hodges explained.

“My grandfather had passed away and the funeral was on the same day.

“We had a discussion and my mum said that grandad would want me to play, so I made my debut and we won 2-1 – I played against Gordon Taylor!

“It was a dream debut but I got brought back down to Earth very quickly because I was left out of the group for the next game.

“I felt I’d done enough to keep my place, but you have these setbacks and you’ve got to respond in the right way, which hopefully I demonstrated.”

Allison left as boss in 1979 and was replaced by Bobby Saxton, but Hodges was given a run of eight games, including a first fixture on Match of the Day against Swansea.

Hodges’ career snowballed thereafter and good luck with injuries meant he rarely missed a game in the following seasons.

Dorset Echo: Kevin Hodges has 620 appearances and 87 goals for Plymouth Picture: PLYMOUTH HERALDKevin Hodges has 620 appearances and 87 goals for Plymouth Picture: PLYMOUTH HERALD

One highlight came in the 1983-84 campaign when Plymouth embarked on a stunning FA Cup run, losing 1-0 to Watford in the semi-finals as George Reilly broke Argyle hearts.

Hodges’ biggest contribution came in the third round against Newport.

“We were 2-0 down at home,” he said. “It looked like we were going out and within the last 15 minutes I got a goal back.

“Then I got brought down for a penalty which Tommy Tynan converted. We took the tie to Newport and beat them 1-0.

“As we progressed, we started to believe we could do it. It was a phenomenal feeling.

“We beat West Brom away, Tommy got the only goal. Then Derby in the quarter-final, that was a special night.

“Then we had Watford at Villa Park. We more than held our own against an up and coming First Division team with Graham Taylor.

“I had an opportunity towards the end which looked like it was going in, then it bounced and veered to the left of the post.

“I lot of people say: ‘Oh, what if you’d scored?’ But I do remind people I kept us in the tie when we played Newport!”

“It was difficult to accept defeat (in the semi-final) but I thought I was young and would get another opportunity. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”

Plymouth’s cup adventure was followed by promotion in 1985-86 as Argyle finished second in Division Three – a season Hodges is particularly proud of.

“That was probably my best season ever,” he admitted. “It was tough, my dad was seriously ill and I had that playing on my mind. I used football as a release.

“The team gelled really well under Dave Smith and I scored 16 goals – the highest I’d scored in a season.

“We got promoted and I’ve got great memories of the game we secured promotion against Bristol City.

“I had the clean sweep of the player of the year awards and it was a nice reward come May.”

Chrondomalacia plagued Hodges towards the end of his spell at Plymouth and he eventually moved to Torquay United.

Dorset Echo: Dorchester's Robbie Herrera, left, and Kevin Hodges, right, played for Torquay Picture: PHIL STANDFIELDDorchester's Robbie Herrera, left, and Kevin Hodges, right, played for Torquay Picture: PHIL STANDFIELD

“Peter Shilton came in and I got on OK with Peter,” he said. “As a goalkeeper his qualities stood out, even in his later age.

“He brought younger players in and that’s the norm that a club has to keep progressing. He made it clear it was going to be hard for me to be in and around the squad.

“I kept fighting and was involved but not like I wanted to be. I was 32 and wanted to play.

“I knew Torquay were interested because I had a month’s loan there. I had the feeling my time was up.

“I forced the issue with Paul Compton and Justin Fashanu. It was a bit of a wrench but I went up and had six happy years at Torquay.”

When Compton resigned, Neil Warnock became Torquay boss in the 1992-93 season and saved the Gulls from relegation.

“He certainly had qualities that he demonstrated in that short period of time at Torquay that (showed) he was going to go on to better things,” Hodges said.

A bittersweet moment for Hodges came as he scored in a 2-1 win against Plymouth in the Autoglass Trophy in 1993.

“Obviously, Peter was playing in goal and it was a strange moment, hard for me to celebrate it,” he said.

That same season, Robbie Herrera – now manager at Dorchester with Hodges his number two – had two loan spells from QPR.

Somehow, they did not share the pitch at Plainmoor but Hodges’ stay lasted until 1997 when he turned to coaching.

It is only fair that Hodges has the final say on his remarkable playing career, for which he was named in Plymouth's team of the century.

He said: “I just hope people remember me for being a hard-working player. I always gave 100 per cent.

“I’d run at players and try to make things happen.

“I just hope I’ve given them some pleasurable moments that they can treasure.”


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