Lee Hodges signed his first professional contract with West Ham in 1995 before going on to make more than 100 league appearances for Scunthorpe. With the Hammers struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League and the Iron sitting top of League One, we talked to the 38-year-old about two of his former clubs.
His thoughts on Scunthorpe this season
“Funnily enough, they were doing pretty well until I decided to turn up and commentate on their game against Charlton. I think Scunthorpe will win League One this year, they’re doing really well at the moment and they’ve got a player in Luke Williams who is on fire – I think he’s got one of the best strike rates in Europe. He’s their main man at the moment.”
His thoughts on Graham Alexander
“I only know Graham from having played against him when he was at Preston but he’s done a really good job at the club, he’s gone in and bought in some good players so fingers crossed he takes them up.”
On being labelled as a bit of a party animal
“I did enjoy myself when I was up there but the reason for this was that I was the only player who actually lived in Scunthorpe. No one else actually lived there, a lot lived around Leeds and Harrogate, so it was a bit different. It wasn’t until Andy Dawson moved in with me that we had another team member living in Scunthorpe. Some of the stories of my ‘antics’ simply were not true, especially those that said I went out on Friday nights.”
On his best moment at the club
“It would have to be scoring against Doncaster in the FA Cup in 2001. It was a full house at their stadium, about 15,000 in attendance, and I picked the ball up on the half way and ran the length to score. It was on Match of the Day’s highlight reel, it was a great moment.”
On constantly going out on loan and the need for first-team football
“Going out on loan all the time has an impact on you as a player. You have to adjust and bed in with new teams and players all the time and I was fed up with it. I would come in to a team, help them stay up or push for promotion and then head back to my parent club West Ham – there was no clear objectives other than to muck in and help out.
“At West Ham Harry Redknapp confirmed I was going to be a squad player, not a first-team regular, so I turned round and said I wanted to leave. He wasn’t happy at all, but he understood.”
On playing with Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard at West Ham
“Frank Lampard was the golden boy of the West Ham team at the time. He was scoring goals all over the place and Rio was an absolute rock at the back from day one. We had a really good youth team at West Ham, some very talented eight out of ten and nine out of ten type players. We lost in the FA Youth Cup final against Liverpool thanks to someone called Michael Owen, but it was a really talented group of players in the West Ham set up.”
On whether Slaven Bilic should leave the club following current performances
“I think he should stay but then again everyone is judged on results. I think the stadium move has really hindered him as Upton Park was a more intimate stadium where he maybe had more influence from the touchline. Now, the team is playing in a nice open stadium, with a nice big open pitch, for the big teams to exploit them. I don’t think bringing in a new manager will change anything to be honest.
“You look at what happened to Spurs when they went to Wembley for Champions League games. They should be winning the games against Leverkusen and Monaco but when you’re hosting at a brand new ground, teams want to be the party poopers and spoil celebrations.”
On West Ham’s survival
“I think they’ll stay up. I look at the teams below them and don’t think there’s enough quality to climb above West Ham. They’ve got some really good players, like Payet, and some players who can cause teams problems, like Carroll, so I think they’ll have enough to keep afloat.”
On whether clubs are doing enough to scout out non-league talent
“I was quite surprised how good the quality of non-league teams was when I started playing there. They’re all trying to prove a point, to show they belong in the bigger leagues – so the competition was good. A lot of clubs are going to non-league games but really, there aren’t enough opportunities for lower league players. Unfortunately it generally comes down to one man’s opinion of you, which can make or break your career.
“I think there’s some really good talent in the non-league teams and if you watch, you’ll see players working hard and showing hunger and desire to do well. Some players take rejection well and stay determined to make it back to the top and some think it’s the end of the road and give up. Jamie Vardy proved a lot of people and coaches wrong and was determined to show he could make it.”