AS a tough Yorkshireman who grew up during the Second World War, tears may not usually come easily to Alan Hodgkinson, but he is preparing to shed a few tomorrow.
After 60 seasons in senior football, as a goalkeeper and then as a coach, Hodgkinson made the difficult decision to retire last week.
The 76-year-old, who was awarded an MBE in 2008, will be the guest of honour at the Kassam Stadium , where he has been part of the staff since 2005.
He is guaranteed a heartfelt send-off, but it is a measure of the man that he does not want to be a distraction.
“I’ll be there, but I don’t want to take anything away from the team – that’s the most important part of the day, getting a result,” he said.
“I don’t want my appearance in saying goodbye to overshadow it. That’s more important than me.
“It will be emotional because I’ve made so many friends.
“The supporters have been absolutely marvellous with me, we’ve had banter during the warm-ups and I’ll miss them immensely.
“I suppose I’ll be looking forward to it with a heavy heart, really.
“Journeys sometimes have to come to an end, mine has lasted 60 years.
“All round the world, my journey has been an exceptional one, but it just seems like five minutes.”
Hodgkinson’s set out on his path in 1953, when he joined Sheffield United.
The prime example of a one-club man, the goalkeeper made 675 appearances for the Blades over the next 17 years.
His performances earned five senior caps for England and included trips to the World Cups in 1958 and 1962.
Hodgkinson’s coaching career was arguably even more impressive.
Everton, Glasgow Rangers and Manchester United, where he is credited with bringing Peter Schmeichel to English football, were just some of the clubs who used his services, while he also spent seven years in Scotland’s national set-up.
Despite the host of glittering occasions, Hodgkinson regards his spell at Oxford United just as fondly.
He said: “I worked at Man United, Glasgow Rangers, Everton and nearly 200 internationals with Scotland, but Oxford is on a par.
“I will miss the fans because of their involvement and the willingness for the team to win.
“I remember when we were in the Conference we used to go round the country and fill the grounds.
“They were not the best grounds but Oxford United’s supporters made that division.
“And then winning at Wembley, that was a wonderful experience.
“That stands out in my mind. I will remember that until my dying day – I hope that’s a long time away.
“I have always been proud to represent Oxford United, it gives me great satisfaction to look back and think ‘that was a wonderful time I had’.
“I’m hoping they’ll go on and climb the leagues to get as high as possible. Nobody will be more pleased when that happens than me.”
Hodgkinson does not intend to turn his back on football completely. But most of all, retirement will be spent on tending his garden near Banbury and putting in quality time with his six grandchildren.
He said: “Football has been my life, you can be very selfish so I’ll see more of my family.
“I’ve never had Christmas and New Year, so in the years I have coming up I shall enjoy them.”