Manning was the only man who could convince Hogg to leave Newcastle United
“I feel really fortunate to be here, working in football - I don’t see it as work”
Chris Hogg admitted he was more than happy to remain at Newcastle United, working in their academy, but said as soon as Liam Manning called him to take up a role at MK Dons, he jumped at the opportunity
The relationship between Chris Hogg and Liam Manning started nearly 20 years ago, and when Dons’ new head coach called his former team-mate to ask him to join him at Stadium MK, there was no doubt in Hogg’s mind.
Hogg and Manning came through the academy at Ipswich Town together, but weren’t close friends until they were reunited at Portman Road, this time as coaches a decade later. While Manning’s career as a player effectively ended in 2005, Hogg carved a good career for himself north of the border, lining up for Hibs and Inverness before retiring in 2013 at just 28.
It was at Ipswich where the pair realised their shared outlook on life, football and how to develop players. Their careers one again separated, but when Manning took the top job at MK Dons, Hogg, who was enjoying his job in Newcastle’s academy, was his first call to join him as assistant head coach.
“He knew he was the only man in football I'd have left my job in Newcastle for, and I don't say that lightly,” he said. “We had just made some changes there and we were just starting to get going somewhere as a club and an academy and I was really looking forward to it.
“So when the phone went with Liam, I was delighted for him to be offered the job and delighted to be offered to join him at the club, who I'd watched a lot over the last 18 months as well. Part of me was delighted to hear from him, the other part was 'thanks a lot, now I've got a decision to make!' but I was always going to come and work with him.
“I wouldn't even class us as mates in the early stages - he was a year younger than me at Ipswich. Life is all about people and characters. Through the youth team, we always respected each other.
“We were both competitors, we weren't the most gifted but we worked hard and tried to do things properly and be professional footballers.
“Our paths separated - Liam went into coaching and I managed to get a career until I had to retire at 28. As soon as I retired, we linked up at Ipswich again on the coaching front and really hit it off on our beliefs on life, people, and also around football, development and the way we want to play.”
And so far, it has been a positive start for Manning and Hogg at Dons. David Wright, another former Ipswich man, was swiftly brought in to join them on the coaching staff, and the team picked up four points from three tough games against Sunderland, Charlton and Ipswich, playing some exciting football along the way.
“If there were loads of glaring issues, the gaffer would never have taken the job!” Hogg continued. “We've had loads of chats with the group, we've had feedback on how they feel. We want to make progress.
“Coming in during that week, it was perfect to get our teeth into it and get a real view of everyone early on. I'm really excited where we can go.
“I feel really fortunate to be here, working in football - I don't see it as work. It has been difficult in terms of how time consuming and energy sapping it is, travelling, the emotions of taking the job and taking it all in so far, but I've loved it since I got here. My mindset is that it is a great, exciting challenge.”