Christmas is a time for patience, understanding and love, says AFC Ludlow striker Dale Hodge

CHRISTMAS is a time of patience, understanding and love, writes LEWIS DEAKIN.

Patience is something AFC Ludlow striker Dale Hodge has in abundance.

He understands exactly how difficult it is for young players to break into the beautiful game.

Hodge, 20, said: “I like to make sure everyone in the AFC Ludlow team is feeling comfortable. If something needs to be said, then I will say it. I will always try and help the younger players improve their game.

“People have always been willing to help me improve, so I know it’s something good to have. I was Ludlow captain a couple of years ago, so I have always had that leadership ability.

“Kieran Dovey, Liam Taylor and our manger Dave Cooper's son Keanu all have a lot to learn, but it is only their first year in men’s football.”

In the true spirit of Christmas Hodge is happy to give the youngsters a helping hand.

If they are willing to learn then Hodge believes these players can make an impact in the higher divisions.

For Hodge Dovey is the spirit and embodiment of pure footballing talent.

He said: “Kieran is one of the best players around. He is very clever on the ball and his technique is phenomenal. If Kieran had more pace he would be unstoppable. His passing and technique is unbelievable.

“Keanu is not dissimilar to Kieran. His technique is very good. Once he gets experience he will be another who is pushing on.

“Liam is also a good player. He has been trained well throughout his junior years. Liam just needs to calm down sometimes. He has a good football mind. They can all go on and play at a higher standard if they keep their feet on the ground.”

University is the anchor that keeps Hodge’s feet tied to the floor.

Since leaving John Moores University in Liverpool for the Christmas break – Hodge revealed the festive spirit has already taken hold.

However, breaks don’t last forever and Hodge is prepared to work hard on his studies and for Ludlow during the holiday season.

He said: “I’m glad to be back. It is nice to have a break from my Sports Development course at university and see all of my friends. I’m pleased to be able to play a few consecutive games for Ludlow. One of my aims in 2014 is to pass my first year.

“I’m happy to get university out the way for a month, but I still have to crack on with assignments over Christmas.”

For footballers’ happiness comes from picking up results.

Results can lead teams to glory and Hodge has set his sights clearly on the West Midlands League Division Two title.

But Hodge warned his team-mates that championships are earned only through hard work and dedication.

He expects Ludlow’s run to the Shropshire Premier Cup quarter-finals can inspire his team-mates to kick start their league campaign in 2014.

He said: “We have to pick up points at this time of year, because it can build us up for the last few games of the season. If we are playing well it will be good for the Christmas break and New Year. Any game is tough in December as the pitches won’t be brilliant.

“On January 4 we have a massive game against Wolverhampton Sporting Community. We are not out of the title race yet. If a couple of results go our way. It is not out of our reach if we are consistent in the second-half of the season as we have been very inconsistent so far.

“Ellesmere Rangers beat us 3-1 in the Shropshire Premier Cup. But our run into the last eight will give us a confidence boost. It proves we can compete against the best sides in Shropshire, which should help us push on in the second-half of the campaign.”

Confidence is the key to forgetting bad results that can leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Results that have seen arch-rivals Newport Town do the double over AFC Ludlow this year.

But Hodge has urged Ludlow to put their 3-0 defeat behind them.

He said: “It was a disappointing result against Newport. But we have never won at Shuker Field, it is a difficult place to go.”

As for the never satisfied Hodge all he wants to be doing in 2014 is playing football.

He doesn’t mind whether that is with his new team Marshalls FC in Liverpool or with AFC Ludlow.

Hodge’s satisfaction comes from being named in Cooper’s starting 11.

He said: “My ambition is to keep playing football whether that is for Ludlow or my new side in Liverpool. But I want to play for Dave as much as possible!”

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