WHEN Kevin Hodges took his first strides into management, little did he know the future connections he would build with Dorchester Town.

Now assistant manager under Robbie Herrera at the Magpies, Hodges’ management career has been colourful – to say the least.

It takes some bottle for a player of Hodges’ stature – the all-time record appearance maker at Plymouth, no less – to recognise his lack of match minutes and switch to coaching.

Having played 620 times for Argyle, scoring 87 times, Hodges was able to bring a considerable amount of experience to his role on the sidelines.

His career began when Neil Warnock’s exit as Torquay boss in 1993 paved the way for Don O’Riordan – formerly of Middlesbrough – to take over.

O’Riordan’s opportunity also became a chance for Hodges to get involved with coaching.

“He was the player-manager and he said: ‘I’d like you to just help out, do a few warm-ups and bits and pieces,’” Hodges recalled.

READ MORE: Kevin Hodges reflects on playing career - feature

“That’s when I started to get involved in actual coaching. I had people like Darren Moore (current Sheffield Wednesday boss), Paul Trollope (Forest assistant).

“Darren came through the youth system at Torquay and Trolls was trying to get his career back on track.

“They were very dedicated and used to phone me up on a Wednesday, generally a day off.

“They’d say: ‘Kev, can you come down and have an hour with me?’ So I used to do some one-to-one work, it was basic but I’m still in touch with those boys now.”

Dorset Echo: Kevin Hodges has managed Plymouth, Torquay and Clevedon Picture: PHIL STANDFIELDKevin Hodges has managed Plymouth, Torquay and Clevedon Picture: PHIL STANDFIELD

O’Riordan’s exit at Torquay led to Eddie May’s introduction and he then appointed Hodges as under-18s coach after Paul Compton was promoted as May’s assistant.

“There was nobody looking after the youth and Eddie didn’t involve me on the playing side that often,” Hodges said.

“I got to the stage where I had a discussion with Eddie. I said: ‘You’re not playing me, I’m twiddling my thumbs, would you object if I took the 18s?’

“He said: ‘Are you sure?’ I said: ‘I can still play but it gives me the opportunity to work with a group of players.’”

Garry Monk, sacked by Sheffield Wednesday in November 2020, was Hodges’ first transfer and he also worked with former Weymouth defender Steve Tully.

Hodges took over after May left when the Gulls propped up Division Three in 1996, only to be saved from the drop when Stevenage’s ground was ruled unfit for League football.

Immediately, fortunes improved under Hodges in the 96-97 season.

“I inherited a team with a losing streak, but we changed that,” Hodges said.

“We made a flying start but then the losing habit set in and I was getting concerned.

“We were freefalling down the league, it was my first job and I was thinking: ‘How are we going to stop this?’”

Torquay survived the drop with a month to spare, allowing Hodges to make serious changes for the 1997-98 season.

He said: “I got rid of eight players and we should’ve been promoted, I’m kicking myself because we missed out by one point.

“I brought Jason Roberts in and gave him his debut and he partnered with Rodney Jack.

“Honestly, they were fantastic. They combined very well.

“They let (Roberts) go to Bristol City and we missed him. We hit a bad patch and went to Orient with a draw required. They beat us 2-1.

“We had to go up through the play-offs, it was a massive disappointment. To be fair to the players, they responded really well and beat Scarborough 7-2 (on aggregate).

“We got to the final at Wembley but it’s not a nice place to lose. We lost 1-0 to Colchester on a penalty, which was a shame.”

Dorset Echo: Kevin Hodges, left, played 620 times for Plymouth before going on to manage the Pilgrims in 1998 Picture: PLYMOUTH HERALDKevin Hodges, left, played 620 times for Plymouth before going on to manage the Pilgrims in 1998 Picture: PLYMOUTH HERALD

Despite missing out on promotion with the Gulls, Hodges took over at Plymouth after Mick Jones departed.

However, the timing proved awkward amid a rebuilding phase as Hodges finished 13th in 98/99 and 12th in 99/00.

“At the end of the day, you have to get promotion or be up there,” he said.

“But we did have two good cup runs, we got to the third round of the FA Cup and then the fourth round.

“I can look back on it as two mid-table finishes and two good cup runs, it wasn’t all bad!”

He added: “I came to Plymouth and we had six players signed. That was daunting trying to put a team together.

“It was a downward trend at Plymouth. They had been successful in the Championship and then it was freefall.

“We turned it around but we just didn’t do enough. We had too many draws.

“My last game was just a day of quietness. We played Barnet and lost 3-2. I sensed my time might be coming.

“I still take a lot of pride in managing the team I’ve spent a lot of years with.”

In 2004, combining a Somerset FA role as Football Development Officer, Hodges took over at Clevedon Town.

He would guide the Seasiders to the top of the Southern League Western Division before Steve Thompson – a future Dorchester boss – came calling at Yeovil.

“Out of the blue I got a call from Steve. I went and had a chat with the chairman and it was all agreed,” Hodges said.

“I take a lot of pride in what we did there. Gary (Johnson) had gone and there’d been so much they achieved, taking them from non-League through the leagues.

“Unfortunately, it was quite tough but the group pulled together and we kept our League One status.”

Hodges was unceremoniously placed on gardening leave during a holiday, prior to the appointment of Russell Slade to replace Thompson.

But Hodges was in demand and Lennie Lawrence, who handed him his first professional contract at Plymouth, whisked him away to Trollope’s Bristol Rovers in 2006.

Hodges was tasked with overseeing the development of the Pirates’ youth players – one of which was former Dorchester defender Charlie Clough.

Unexpectedly, another trip to Wembley followed in 06/07.

“The two years we had were fantastic,” Hodges said.

“We got to the Football League Trophy final and Lennie and Trolls involved me around it all.

“We all went over to the Millennium Stadium and unfortunately lost 3-2 to Doncaster.

“But the following season we were in the play-off final at Wembley and it was a little bit more joyous, we beat Shrewsbury 3-1.”

Dorset Echo: Kevin Hodges, right, is assistant to Robbie Herrera, left, at Dorchester Picture: PHIL STANDFIELDKevin Hodges, right, is assistant to Robbie Herrera, left, at Dorchester Picture: PHIL STANDFIELD

Plymouth returned for Hodges’ services in 2010 and the ex-winger worked his way up to become boss of the Pilgrims’ academy side.

With it came a famous night against the might of Manchester City in the 2017 FA Youth Cup.

Hodges’ charges held City – runners-up the previous season – to a 0-0 draw before dumping them out 6-5 on penalties.

Headlining City’s attack was Wales international winger Rabbi Matondo, who would later join Schalke for £11m.

But a Plymouth side containing former Dorchester loanees Tom Purrington and Klaidi Lolos, plus now established Plymouth keeper Mike Cooper and striker Luke Jephcott, pulled off the giant-killing.

Another ex-Magpies loanee, Michael Peck, slammed home the winning spot-kick past England’s Under-17 World Cup winning keeper Curtis Anderson.

“We beat City, which was a bit of a shock,” the modest Hodges said.

“They had players worth millions and it was the night our players carried out their instructions to the tee, it was fantastic.

“We had great organisation and frustrated Man City. We actually created a couple of openings ourselves.

“It went to penalties and we held our nerve. That was a really memorable night, especially for the players involved.”

Hodges left as Plymouth academy director in November 2019 and re-joined Yeovil to fill a coaching role at the Glovers’ academy – amid the pandemic.

“Terry Skiverton phoned me and I went up and spoke to Darren Sarll,” Hodges said.

“Darren was excellent and said: ‘The job’s there for you if you want it. You’ll be welcome.’

“I started in January (2020) and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of players in the year group.

“I got involved and we were starting to get onto the development phase, then the season became suspended.

“There was concern financially and then I was furloughed. I was there until August. They scaled their academy down and there was no coaching role for me.”

Yeovil’s loss proved Dorchester’s gain, as new boss Herrera swooped in for Hodges.

“Robbie and I worked with the 18s at Plymouth and we’ve got a good understanding,” he said.

“Our visions and strategies are on the same wavelength. There’s a trust there.

“I just think there’s been a few years where they’ve been in a dogfight down at the bottom.

“We just want to get out of that feeling, be more positive and look up.

“It’s an easy game to talk about and say the right things, but implementing and doing it are two different things.

“We’ve got aims and ambitions but doing it on a regular basis is a hard thing to so, it’s something we’ll be striving for.”

Early manoeuvres in the player market are already being taken by Dorchester for the 2021/22 campaign.

Hodges’ arrival has coincided with ground improvements and a renewed positive atmosphere at the Avenue Stadium.

If his managerial career is anything to go by, his influence will surely help the Magpies fly up the league table next season.


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