Icons of Liverpool: Emlyn Hughes

Emlyn Hughes
Football, April, 1979, Liverpool player Emlyn Hughes salutes the vast crowd before his testimonial match at Anfield (Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images)

Welcome back to Last Word On Football’s look at some of Liverpool’s most iconic figures. From players to managers, we look at who has an impact during their time at the club that no Liverpool fan will ever forget. Next is up is the versatile and all-round enforcer Emlyn Hughes.

Hughes spent 12 successful years at Liverpool, collecting 13 trophies. These included four league titles and two European Cups. He is remembered for his heart on the sleeve performances and leadership skills from the heart of midfield and defence.

Emlyn Hughes: An Icon of Liverpool

The Early Years

Hughes arrived at Liverpool in 1967 for a cool £55,000. He made just 28 appearances prior to his move but those performances caught the eye of Bill Shankly. His Liverpool debut came in a 2-1 victory over Stoke City in March 1967. Hughes would score his first goal later that month in a 6-0 win against Newcastle United.

Hughes was endearing himself to the fans earning the nickname ‘Crazy Horse’ following a rash challenge on Newcastle’s Albert Bennett. By the end of the decade, Hughes would be at the forefront of Shankly’s plans to galvanise Liverpool and earn his first England call-up from Alf Ramsey. Hughes’ versatility impressed Ramsey and his debut England game saw Hughes starting at left-back in a win over the Netherlands.

Hughes’ first four seasons brought no silverware but Shankly remained patient and loyal to Hughes as he shaped the Liverpool squad. He survived the infamous cull of 1970 where most of the first team were either transfer listed or sold by Shankly.

Emlyn Hughes: First Taste of Success and Captaincy

Bill Shankly’s Liverpool revolution finally brought success as Hughes collected his first trophy in the 1972/73 season. A first league title and UEFA Cup success would arrive with Hughes playing a vital role in both successes. His goals in Liverpool’s win against bitter rivals Everton are still fondly remembered by fans. He played a starring role as Liverpool beat Borussia Monchengladbach in the UEFA Cup final.

These successes were a taste of things to come for the talented enforcer. Hughes would also become Liverpool captain in 1973 following a heated confrontation between Shankly and then captain Tommy Smith. He thrived with the captain’s armband and his leadership qualities were clear for all to see.

The 1973/74 season brought more silverware as the Reds collected the FA Cup, thumping Newcastle in the final with Hughes lifting the trophy in front of a sold-out Wembley. Hughes’ excellent season was completed when England caretaker manager Joe Mercer handed Hughes the captaincy succeeding the legendary Bobby Moore. Hughes led England for the first time in May 1974 in a win over Wales at Ninian Park.

Continued Success For Hughes

More trophies followed as Liverpool began to dominate English and European football. Don Revie’s decision to axe Hughes from the England squad allowed the enforcer to concentrate on Liverpool.

The 1975/76 saw Hughes collect his second league title and second UEFA Cup. Hughes led by example under Bob Paisley who kept faith with the now converted centre back.

A Special Year

It was a special year in 1977 for Hughes, with several trophies and accolades to come. He captained Liverpool to a tremendous win against Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1977 European Cup final. His performances were outstanding as Liverpool collected the 1976/77 league title. A community shield would later follow as Liverpool continued to dominate English football.

Hughes was leading Liverpool by example and his tenacious performances earned him the FA Writer’s Player of the Year for 1977. His performances earned him a recall to the England set-up, with Don Revie handing the captaincy back to Hughes when Liverpool teammate Kevin Keegan was unavailable.

Final Years

Hughes continued to be a regular for club and country. Trophies continued to arrive with another league title in 1979 as well as another European cup.

However, Hughes’ final season saw him make just 16 appearances and after 665 appearances in which he scored 35 goals; Hughes was sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers for £90,000 in August 1979. Despite his final appearance coming in an FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United, Hughes left Liverpool a true hero.

Emlyn Hughes: A True Liverpool Icon

Hughes was a loyal servant for Liverpool during his 12 years. He led the club brilliantly under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley. He was a true leader and reliable performer for both club and country and it’s no wonder he is respected by all lovers of the game. His performances are still fondly remembered by Liverpool fans and his goals against Everton are still adored to this day.

Hughes was a true battler who optimised what every Liverpool fan wanted to see from their team. He is a true Liverpool icon who is still talked about and loved to this day.


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