The “Billy, Billy, Billy Hughes” Fulwell End chant came immediately to mind as the sad news filtered through this morning that William Hughes, born Coatbridge, Scotland on December 30th, 1948, had sadly passed away.
The memories he gave all who watched him proudly playing for Sunderland for eleven years between 1966 and 1977 will be etched in their minds forever.
Primarily remembered by SAFC supporters and fascinated neutrals alike for his key role in arguably the most memorable FA Cup run in the competition’s history in 1972-73 Hughsie played 287 times for the lads, scoring 74 times.
Whilst enduring images of that 73 Cup run largely centre around the Wembley final and Monty’s all time great save, Bob Stokoe running across the pitch in his trilby with outstretched arms and the Little General Bobby Kerr lifting the famous old pot, Billy Hughes overall role in our success was equally memorable for those who witnessed his performances, especially in the two matches against Manchester City (you young uns check out his goal at Maine Road which was world class to put the lads 2-1 up) and in the semi final at Hillsborough against Arsenal in a game many fans of a certain vintage describe as the most emotional game they ever attended. Playing in all white Sunderland outclassed Arsenal and Billy totally outshone famous opposition names such as Charlie George and Alan Ball with his fabulous and audacious range of skills and non stop foraging.
One Scotland cap was scant reward for such a talent. Whilst on Wearside he also became involved in the business world through a shoe shop named Billy’s Shughes in the town centre. Often seen out enjoying a few drinks, Billy was a bit of a maverick of the same ilk as free spirited players of the time such as Tony Currie, Rodney Marsh and Alan Hudson, characters who loved life as much as their football. Fans didn’t care as they were real entertainers and great footballers, the reason people attend games in the first place.
On leaving Sunderland Billy represented Derby County, Leicester City, Carlisle United and played seven times for Vancouver Royal Canadians and once for San Jose Earthquakes.
After retiring from football, he worked as a licensee in Derby and also managed the club house at Stressholme golf club, Darlington.
I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear when I heard of Billy’s death this morning and I’m sure I wasn’t the only Sunderland fan who witnessed his outrageous brilliance on numerous occasions home and away who did likewise.
Rest In Peace Billy. We’ll love you forever and dear me, how much could the current Sunderland first team do with a Billy Hughes?