Roy Hodgson, Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling and more: 9 World Cup stars with links to SE London and north Kent

Roy Hodgson has previous with Crystal Palace and Gravesend & Northfleet (now known as Ebbsfleet United). Picture by David Purday.

Roy Hodgson has previous with Crystal Palace and Gravesend & Northfleet (now known as Ebbsfleet United). Picture by David Purday.

First published in News
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This Is Local London: Photograph of the Author by , sports editor

The World Cup is less than a week away so what better time to have a closer look at some of the figures involved with connections to the News Shopper area?

There are nine in total, ranging from England boss Roy Hodgson and Charlton's Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Find out more about those two and the seven others who we at Shopper Towers will be paying extra special attention to during the upcoming football feast.

This Is Local London:

Madjid Bougherra (Algeria):

The one-time Charlton defender hasn’t been heard much of in the UK since leaving Glasgow Rangers for Qatar side Lekhwiya in 2011, but he is still part of the Algerian national set up with 41 caps to his name.

Alan Pardew’s transfer dealings during his two-year spell in charge at The Valley were more miss than hit, although his capture of central defender Bougherra for £2.5million from Sheffield Wednesday bucked that trend.

He may have only represented the Addicks 34 times but Bougherra was certainly one of Charlton’s most impressive and assured performers during a first campaign back at Championship level following the 2007 relegation from the Premier League.

Sadly Pardew’s failure to lead the club back to the top flight at the first attempt led to key players being sold in the summer of 2008 and Bougherra headed north of the border to Ibrox.

Now aged 31, Bougherra is a free agent having just been released by Lekhwiya.

If he is looking to land a new club quickly the ex-Addick shouldn’t be distracted by the World Cup for too long because Algeria find themselves in the same Group H as Belgium, Russia and South Korea.

Tim Cahill (Australia):

The 34-year-old might well be in the twilight of his career now but it was only a decade ago he was firing Millwall into the FA Cup final for the first time in their history with the winning semi-final goal against Sunderland.

The Aussie midfielder arrived at The Den in 1997 having joined from Sydney United, making his debut aged 18 at home to Bournemouth towards the end of the 1997-98 campaign.

He helped the Lions win promotion to what is now called the Championship in 2001 and scored an impressive 56 times in 249 appearances for the club, not bad for a midfielder.

Cahill’s ability caught the eye of then Everton boss David Moyes and he joined the Toffees for £1.5m in the summer of 2004.

However, he is still fondly remembered to this day by everyone at The Den.

Now plying his trade for the New York Red Bulls, this will be Cahill’s third and probably last apperance in the World Cup finals.

Reza Ghoochannejhad (Iran):

The progress of Reza - as he is known to most in SE7 - this summer will be followed keenly by the Valley faithful.

Iran are rank outsiders at 1,500-1 to win the World Cup but they will have plenty of support from these parts thanks to the 26-year-old striker’s current club connection.

Reza only joined Charlton in January from Standard Liege, scoring one goal since, although it was an extremely important and impressive effort in the 1-0 success at Leeds United as the clip below shows.

The 26-year-old has certainly been more prolific on the international stage, however, since making his Iran debut in 2012.

Nine goals in 13 appearances - including the decisive strike in a 1-0 over South Korea which booked the country’s place in Brazil - means Reza is definitely one to keep an eye on even if his side face a huge uphill task taking on Argentina, Bosnia and Nigeria in Group F.

Roy Hodgson (England manager):

The hopes of the nation rest on his tactics but the England boss is no stranger to these parts having started out as a youngster with Crystal Palace and spending two years with Gravesend & Northfleet during his playing career.

The club of course changed its name to Ebbsfleet United in 2007 but Hodgson was a virtual unknown when he represented the Fleet, as BBC Radio Kent’s Charles Webster recalls: “Roy Hodgson played 42 times for Gravesend & Northfleet - plus four substitute appearances - over two seasons between 1969 and 1971.

“Sometimes a midfield player, sometimes a defender, Hodgson would have been one of the first names on  manager Alf Ackerman’s team sheet.

“Ackerman, the legendary former Millwall and Dartford centre forward, would have loved Hodgson’s dogged determination, his application and his team ethic.

This Is Local London:

Fleet's Southern League Southern Division promotion side of 1970/71 with Hodgson shown bottom right

“But for the fans on the terraces Roy would have appeared to be a journeyman non-league player, somewhat nondescript, who rarely influenced the course of a game.

“His only goal for the club earned a point in a 2-2 draw at Rugby in April 1970, Tony Sitford scoring the first.

“He may have stayed at Stonebridge Road longer but in 1971 moneybags Maidstone United lured him to the county town, along with many other Fleet players, as they attempted to rise up the football pyramid.”

Mile Jedinak (Australia):

Another player who currently represents one of our sides, Jedinak heads to Brazil on the back of Crystal Palace’s stunning second half of the season which saw them pull off a remarkable survival bid in the Premier League.

The midfielder played in every game for the Eagles as they overcame an abysmal start under Ian Holloway to eventually finish 11th as Tony Pulis came in to transform the SE25 outfit.

This Is Local London:

Picture by Keith Gillard

Jedinak has been at Selhurst since 2011 but made his international debut three years before his arrival on these shores and boasts 43 caps and four goals for the Socceroos.

In the 2010 finals in South Africa he made only appearance for the Aussies but this time Jedinak will be their skipper.

That speaks volumes about how his reputation has grown in the past four years.

Glen Johnson (England):

Born in Greenwich and raised in Dartford, Johnson is as close to we get in Brazil to a true homegrown talent.

The right-back, who attended Temple Hill Primary School and Leigh CTC, also had an eight-game loan spell at Millwall back in 2002 from West Ham at the start of his career.

Having joined Chelsea from the Hammers, the first of Johnson’s England caps came in November 2003 but he had to wait until South Africa 2010 to make his World Cup finals bow.

We can expect to see plenty of him this month and the 29-year-old has arguably just had the best season of his career with a Liverpool side which just missed out on the Premier League title.

Will there be a similar hard luck story with the Three Lions?

Johnson and most fans would probably take that now if you offered it.

Victor Moses (Nigeria):

Although it is hard to believe he is still only 23, that is probably because Moses was aged just 16 when he broke into the Crystal Palace first team in 2007.

Selhurst Park manager Neil Warnock was a big believer in letting youngsters like Moses shine and the gamble paid off as Palace reached the play-off semi-finals, not bad for a team which began the season so poorly under Peter Taylor.

Moses went on to make 58 appearances for the Eagles, scoring 11 goals for the club before then Premier League Wigan snapped the winger up for £2.5m in January 2010 as Palace went into financial meltdown.

This Is Local London:

At that stage he had already represented England at U16, U17 and U19 levels, as well as playing once for the U21s following his switch to the DW Stadium.

However, the Lagos-born player became a full international for the country of his birth in 2011 and has since gone on to win 17 caps.

Nigeria face Argentina, Bosnia and Iran in Group F.

Chris Smalling (England):

The Manchester United defender was born in Greenwich in 1989 and had a spell with Millwall as a youngster before being released and joining non-league Maidstone United.

Since then his rise to prominence has read like something from a Roy of the Rovers comic.

Smalling’s reputation grew quickly at Maidstone and he was highly sought after.

Fulham landed his signature in 2008 and he made his debut the following May as a substitute against Everton.

This Is Local London:

Chris Smalling in action for Fulham - picture by David Greenwood

He only ever played 13 times for the Cottagers before landing a dream move to Manchester United in January 2010 at the age of just 20.

With two Premier League medals already bagged, and 12 England caps to his name, Smalling is set to pass another career milestone with his World Cup debut in Brazil.

However, the Greenwich man will certainly need to do a lot better than he did in Wednesday’s erratic display against Ecuador if he is to actually feature once the big event finally gets underway.

Alex Song (Cameroon):

The midfielder might well be best known by most for his association with Arsenal and Barcelona, but it is worth remembering he enjoyed a successful loan spell at The Valley during the second half of the 2006-07 campaign.

Then aged just 19, Song played a dozen times after arriving from the Gunners in late January and delivered several assured displays as a Pardew-led Charlton threatened to battle their way out of relegation trouble following a horror start to the season under Iain Dowie.

Unfortunately that wasn’t to be and the Addicks have remained out of the top flight ever since.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Song returned to the Emirates, established himself in the first team and then joined Barca for £15m in 2012.

Cameroon are in Group A along with host nation Brazil, Croatia and Mexico.

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