New England boss Roy Hodgson has strong ties with Kent’s non-league football scene.

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Roy Hodgson, the manager, was already a household name before his appointment with England this week, but Roy Hodgson the player, that’s a career only the diehard Kent football fan would know anything about, if at all.

The likeable 64-year-old doesn’t appear to have changed from the polite, mild mannered player described by those who played with him in the lower leagues and watched him from the terraces in the 1970s.

Born in Croydon he joined his hometown club Crystal Palace, but was released and went on to represent Tonbridge, Maidstone, Gravesend & Northfleet and Ashford Town before jetting out to South Africa with another famous name, Bobby Houghton, in 1973 to play for Berea Park.

His appointment to probably the toughest job in management hasn’t come as a surprise to his former team mate Tony Sitford.

The pair played together at Gravesend & Northfleet, now Ebbsfleet United, in 1971, a club which Mr Sitford went on to manage, after a spell at Dartford.

The 73-year-old who still coaches at Corinithian Sports Club, said: “I’m not surprised at all to be honest. He was always interested in it (coaching).

“He would walk into any room and someone would speak to him and he would just be Roy Hodgson, that’s why he’s done so well because he doesn’t put on airs and graces.

“He did everything meticulously well to be honest. He wasn’t the greatest player in the world, he was a very good player but not the best.”

Hodgson played at full back and in midfield during his career, and it’s in the latter role that Mr Sitford remembers him.

“He liked to get it down and pass the ball, he wasn’t an aggressive person or player,” he said. “He was mainly our ball player, he was always willing to take the ball, did the simple things very well indeed.

“He could see a pass very quickly, he had good vision. He was a genuine man.”

BBC Radio Kent commentator for Ebbsfleet United, Chaz Webster remembers the same person, but from the stands where he watched as a teenager.

“He was a typical non-league player we have all seen so many times,” he said. “You could see he thought a lot about his game. His skill set was limited.

“There was no indication that he was to become a world class coach. He played with a smile and was committed and was enthusiastic.

“I would never come away from a game and say what a great player he was, that he illuminated the Stonebridge Road pitch, because he didn’t, and the crowd sometimes got on his back.

“He is a decent chap and I think he’s going to be a big asset to England after what we have been through with the foreign imports.”

Current Maidstone United chairman Bill Williams joined Maidstone after Hodgson had left, but their paths were to cross eventually, and not just the once.

Mr Williams went on to manage Durban United in South Africa while Hodgson was a player/coach with Berea Park.

“It was unusual,” he said. “In my case I got there because I was head hunted because I was an ex-pro and he went out because basically Bobby was married to a South African girl.

“Whenever I talked to him he was very tactical, interested in coaching all his life, more than the playing side.

“That’s come out in his career, that’s his forte.”

Mr Williams came into contact with him more recently when he sold now Manchester United defender Chris Smalling to Fulham when Hodgson was in charge at Craven Cottage in 2008.

One can only hope his first challenge with England at the Euros this summer can be somewhere near as successful as the cup run he played a part in with Ashford Town in 1972 when they reached the FA Trophy Semi-Final before losing to Scarborough 1-0.

Roy’s career in Kent

■ Tonbridge

1969/70 season.

Joined from Sutton.

Appearances: 26

Goals: 1

■ Gravesend & Northfleet

1970/71 season

Appearances: 59 (6 sub)

Goals: 1 in a 2-2 draw at

Rugby Town

■ Maidstone

1971/72 season

Appearances: 35 (3 sub)

Debut on August 21, 1971

as a sub in 2-0 win against

Woodford Town in the

Southern League Cup

qualifying round

Goals: 2, against Grays

Athletic and Bromley.

■ Ashford Town

1972/73 season

Appearances: 30 games

(15 league, 15 cup)

Goals: 3

Final game was on Boxing

day at Hastings when

Town lost 3-2.

Left in January 1973 to

join Berea Park in South

Africa where Bobby

Houghton was manager

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