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Emlyn Hughes 1947-2004: Shine on you Crazy diamond

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The very sad news has been announced that Red legend Emlyn Hughes passed away peacefully at his Sheffield home in the early hours of this morning. He was just 57 and had fought for over a year against a brain tumour.

It came as a great shock to many Reds in September 2003 to hear that Emlyn had been taken into hospital to have an operation to remove a brain tumour and was undertaking radiotherapy treatment. This was a man who had always exuded vitality and a love of life and it just seemed so cruel.

Emlyn was one of those Reds (never an ex-Red, once a Red always a Red) who for some reason or other doesn’t receive full recognition these days for his huge achievements at the club and in football in general. Maybe it’s the airbrushing of pre-1992 football history after the Sky-jacking of the top league? Who knows. But to any fan who remembers the man from Barrow playing for us in the 60s and 70s he’s right up there feasting at the top table with the very best of our legends.

Emlyn was signed by Shanks as a fallow 19 year old from Blackpool back in February 1967. He cost the not inconsiderable sum of £65000 for a teenager, but had been scouted by the club for some time and Shankly was convinced he’d signed a player to inject some much needed dynamism into his ageing side. He made his debut the next month v Stoke and barely looked back after that, playing an incredible 657 games during his Anfield career.

Emlyn's immediately apparent enthusiasm and will to win endeared the youngster to the Kop even if, as might have been expected from a teenager, the odd challenge was slightly rash at first. It was during these formative first few weeks at Anfield that he gained the nickname he was to carry as a badge of honour throughout his career; Crazy Horse. Ironically the name was bestowed upon him by Everton fans, something they’d live to regret in seasons to come.

Come all without
Come all within
You ain't seen nothing like the Mighty Emlyn

Emlyn was predominantly a left sided player but had an excellent right foot. He was strong in the air, a good tackler and as he got older a calm reader of the game. He started out at Blackpool as a fullback but Shankly saw him as the spark his team needed in midfield which is where the youngster made his debut. His early career at Liverpool also saw him deputise for the injured Gerry Byrne at leftback before he found a permanent place in the Reds' midfield at left half. With the departure of Larry Lloyd in the middle of the 1973-74 season he dropped back into defence to form a great partnership with Thommo, but still filled in (make that excelled) as a midfielder when required. He finished his career making 16 appearences in the all conquering 78-79 team back where it all started as a left fullback.

His move into central defence in the early 70s fitted in perfectly with the change in footballing theory by Shanks who, after seeing his side defeated by the likes of Ajax and Ferencvaros in the late 60s/early 70s, decided to dispense with the clogger/ball player philosophy of centreback partnerships that had existed in English football for decades. If we were to succeed in Europe it was time to move to two ball playing centrebacks and Emlyn proved to be one of the first, and finest, modern central defenders.

Hughes' first goal for the club would come at Anfield at the start of the 67-68 season in a 6-0 thrashing of Newcastle - 47 more would follow. A typical Crazy Horse goal would see him start a move with a clever pass out of defence and then pop up at the other end of the pitch to get on the end of the last pass in the move and score. He always seemed to have boundless energy to run the full length of the pitch to support the attack. And then of course the energy to celebrate. And could he celebrate!!! Emlyn would run like a mad man arms in the air screaming loudly and grinning from ear to ear, maybe throwing in the odd skip into his run. His other speciality was the rifled shot from 30 yards – when he hit a ball it stayed hit and would arrow through the air before sending the net bulging towards the Kop.

It would be 1973 before he saw trophy success at Liverpool with Shanks’ reformed modern-style team winning both the UEFA Cup and the League title. The start of the next season saw Emlyn take over the captaincy from Tommy Smith and lead Liverpool in the FA Cup final to a memorable 3-0 win over Newcastle with the boastful Malcolm MacDonald's pre-game boasts shoved firmly down his neck by a defence superbly marshalled by Emlyn.

Further success under his leadership followed with League Titles in 76 and 77, the UEFA Cup in 76 and our first two European Cup triumphs in the “Glory that was Rome” over Borussia in 1977 and the win over Bruges at Wembley in 1978. To put that into perspective, Emlyn captained us to as many European trophies as any other British club has won in their history.

During all this success at LFC he managed to chalk up 59 England caps (a club record) and also take over the captaincy of his country. Oh and let's not forget his 26 own goals. Legend has it he's the all-time top goal scorer against Liverpool just pipping Dixie Dean to the title.

Then there was Everton. Emlyn loved playing against our Blue cousins and scored 4 goals against them including both goals in a famous 2-0 win at Goodison in the 72-73 title winning season, Emlyn running towards the Park End to celebrate. His best remembered derby moment though was a remark made at the end of the FA Cup semi-final replay in 1977. After a 3-0 win he turned to the camera and said “Liverpool are magic, Everton are tragic” - hardly the Liverpool Way but most Reds had a quiet chuckle to themselves at the time.  The problem was Emlyn made the mistake of repeating the comment (after possible a few celebratory drinks too many) on the balcony of St George's Hall at the end of the season on the team's return from Rome. It left the many Everton fans there who had come to congratulate the first European Cup winners from the city seething, and he later apologised.

Emlyn’s Anfield career ended when he joined Wolves for £90,000 in 1979. He captained them to a League Cup triumph in his first year at Molineux picking up the only domestic trophy missing from his cabinet.

On retirement from the game he moved into TV and took over as a captain on Question of Sport (getting handbagged by Princess Anne in the process) and also spent much of his time working tirelessly for charities. He was never afraid to voice his views in the media on the club and players which didn’t always endear him to some of today's "sensitive" fans. His on-running feud with Tommy Smith will remain one of football's most famous, pretty ironic considering the two players’ near identical career records for the Reds.

It’s doubtful if anyone who has worn the Liverbird upon their chest has played with more spirit and drive for the club than Emlyn. It was this spirit, drive and will to win that saw him fight so bravely for 16 months against the brain tumour ravaging him.

Our thoughts are with Emlyn's wife Barbara, children Emma and Emlyn junior, and the rest of his family and friends at this very sad time.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

Emlyn Hughes Liverpool Stats
Appearances: 657
Goals: 48 goals
Honours with LFC: 2 European Cups, 2 UEFA Cups, 4 League Championships, 1 FA Cup, 59 England Caps
Football Writers Player of the Year: 1977

Smith v Hughes, a comparison
League appearances: Smith 467 Hughes 474
League goals: Smith 36 Hughes 35
Total appearances: Smith 633 Hughes 657
Total goals: Smith 48 Hughes 48

© Rushian 2004

In that first game against Stoke he tackled one of their hard players (Maurice Setters I think) somewhere about midriff height. He bounced off him and then jumped back and into the fray.

We knew right there that a star had landed.

thank you Steve

He was a member of the finest Liverpool squad for me.

And a real Liverpool player in every aspect.

these monied days seemed to have bought out any semblance of a personality in many teams - the game lacks real characters - ah for another post methinks...

Emlyn Hughes was a character and a footballer and a Red. Sadly missed.


Paul Tomkins:
Top stuff, Rushian. A fitting tribute. (And an amazing comparison with Tommy Smith).

Great stuff Steve.

Hughes was probably the first player I recognised as a kid, first footballer to enter my conscious, and first player I wanted for my Panini book,  and his lifting of the European Cup, surrounded by a throng of people and a mass of flashing bulbs is still, and probably always will be, my favourite Liverpool moment.

couldn't find a better pic

A Legend sadly missed.


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