Even his nickname was of the decade that came to encapsulate the best of his career. For some, the name Crazy Horse might summon forth mental images of Neil Young’s screaming, screeching backing band. For others, it might be the peculiar sight of Mormon syrup specialists The Osmonds proving that they could rock out as well as dampen female gussets. For football supporters of that decade, however, it’s a name that could only reasonably be associated with one person. Liverpool’s Emlyn Hughes.
It’s easy to recall Hughes as the pastel-sweatered joker with a voice inflected with helium on the BBC’s A Question Of Sport during the 1980s, but Hughes was a sportsman first, of course. With the build of a country farm hand and a right foot like a steamroller infused with titanium implants, he was the product of a bygone era, the sort the you simply don’t get at the top end of the professional game any more. Yet even in an era during which football in England indulged its dark side – every team seemed have its own enforcer, from Ron Harris to Billy Bremner – Hughes was not that man for Liverpool, where he spent the lion’s share of his career. His game was built on power, for sure, but the was also an elegance to his footwork that was not always a currency in the game during that era.
Over the course of twelve years from 1967 on, Hughes won almost every trophy there was to win in club football with Liverpool, the Football League Championship, the European Cup, the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup, before moving on to Wolverhampton Wanderers, where he won the League Cup in 1979, and then to Rotherham United, where a two year long stay as player-manager saw him take the club to its highest league position in a generation. He played for and captained the England team, and was perhaps unfortunate that the best years of his career coincided with the national team’s lost decade. After having battled with a brain tumour for six years, Emlyn Hughes died in 2009 at the age of fifty-seven.
EMLYN HUGHES O.B.E.
Born 28th August 1947, Barrow-in-Furness. Died 9th November 2004, Sheffield.
Clubs: Blackpool (1964-1967); Liverpool (1967-1979); Wolverhampton Wanderers (1979-1981); Rotherham United (1981-1983); Hull City (1983); Mansfield Town (1983); Swansea City (1983-1984). Club appearances: 632. Club goals: 43.
Domestic honours: English Football League Championship 1972/73, 1975/76, 1976/77, 1978/79; FA Cup 1974; League Cup 1980; Charity Shield 1974, 1976, 1977. Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year 1977.
European honours: European Cup 1977, 1978; UEFA Cup 1973, 1976; UEFA Super Cup 1977.
International honours: 8 England Under-21 caps, 1 goal (1967-1970); 62 England caps, 1 goal (1969-1980). Member of the 1970 World Cup and 1980 European Championship squads.
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