PHIL’S HALF TIME PITCH TALK WAS INCREDIBLE
LOSING to Liverpool in a Cup final is any Everton fan’s very worst nightmare. But for Bryan Hughes, it was eclipsed by the infamous Hull City ‘team talk’.
The goalscoring midfielder was part of the Tigers side that shocked the Premier League in 2008-09, beating both Arsenal and Tottenham away.
But a Boxing Day trip to Manchester City turned their season sour. With the Tigers losing 4-0 at half-time, boss Phil Brown sat his side down on the pitch and gave them a public dressing down.
Despite that blip, Hughes enjoyed a fruitful career, playing in the Premier League as well as at Wembley and the Millennium Stadium. Here he runs through his memories, including the day he was given the runaround by a youthful Cristiano Ronaldo...
I left school and went straight to Wrexham as a YTS. Fortunately for me, I was pushed into the first team once I had turned 17.
I got a good upbringing at Wrexham and I think that’s missing in the modern day game. With the YTS long gone and the academy scene in place now, they don’t get the same grounding. A lot of us older pros learned a lot of good values in those two years as a YTS.
I’m from Liverpool so Wrexham wasn’t too far away and there was quite a strong Scouse contingent at the club. Brian Flynn was the manager back then and I owe a lot to him.
Brian was a great manager and I hold him in very high esteem. He had a great career as a midfielder so knowing he saw something in me was a big boost.
I played under some very good managers in Trevor Francis, Alan Curbishley, Phil Brown and Iain Dowie but the best I worked under was Steve Bruce.
I joined Birmingham as a 20-year-old from Wrexham and Steve was the captain at the time. He was somebody I looked up to having been at Manchester United for so long.
Steve left but then came back to manage the team and he made me more of a focal point. He gave us the push needed to get into the Premier League.
Quality-wise, it’s 100 per cent Christophe Dugarry. He joined us at Birmingham on loan in our first season in the Premier League.
He was a World Cup winner with France and he was just a fantastic player and a really good lad off the pitch. He gave the whole club a huge boost and I think any Birmingham fan would agree with me on what a good player he was. On his day, he was unplayable.
Unfortunately, he got a couple of injuries but it was a pleasure to be on the same pitch as him for 18 months.
Birmingham was my first promotion in 2002. Trevor Francis signed me when I was 20 and my goal was to help them into the Premier League.
They had a really good squad when I joined. The likes of the late Gary Ablett, Anders Limpar, Paul Furlong, Mike Newell and Barry Horne. There were some serious names flying about.
Trevor was building a squad to get promotion but it just wasn’t quite happening for us. We lost in the play-offs a few times and we couldn’t get past them.
The club parted ways with Trevor and brought Steve back in the December and maybe it was just meant to be as later that season we finally made it to the Premier League.
I was injured when Steve first came in but I got back into the team straight away in the January and we went on an unbelievable run.
I can definitely name a couple from my time at Hull City – Dean Windass and Jimmy Bullard! They were two fantastic characters and it was great just sharing a dressing room with them.
Dean joined the same time as I did and we became close friends and roomed together for the three years we were there.
They were both great entertainment on the training ground and they were always the centre of attention. At times, Phil Brown must have been pulling his hair out trying to control them.
They weren’t just pranksters though, both brought a lot of quality to the team as well. Dean scored the all-important goal to get Hull into the Premier League.
At the time it wasn’t funny but, looking back at it now, it was absolutely unbelievable! It has to be when Phil Brown sat all of the players down on the pitch at halftime.
We were 4-0 down at the time at Manchester City on Boxing Day but I’m still not really sure why Phil did it. We had such a good start to the season and were sitting sixth at the time, punching well above our weight.
Looking back, I think the lads felt a bit humiliated by it all. We had some real seasoned pros who had been in the Premier League a long time.To be sat down in front of 4,000 travelling fans was incredible.
We lost 5-1 in the end so we drew the second half – maybe it did work after all!
It has to be getting Birmingham into the Premier League because when I went there, that was my main aim. When Trevor signed me that was all I was focused on.
It was such a relief when we finally did it after the near misses and it was nice to repay the fans for stick- ing by us through the tough times.
Getting to the League Cup final with Birmingham against Liverpool is up there, too – that was a fantastic day for the club.
Getting Hull promoted was special, too. We had just avoided relegation the year before so I don’t think anybody expected us to do it.
One of the lowest moments has to be when we lost to Liverpool on penalties in the Cup final.We were a Championship team and we gave them a really good game.
We equalised in the last minute and all the momentum was with us but we couldn’t get a winner and to lose on penalties was heartbreaking. It was a double whammy for me as I’m an Everton fan!
GOOD BAD & UGLY: BRYAN HUGHES
Losing to Barnsley 4-0 in the first leg of the play-offs was also tough to take.You work hard all year and then your season is undone in 90 minutes.
The day before I left Wrexham, we lost to Chesterfield in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. We were favourites and we lost 1-0 – as a young lad that was hard to take.
TOUGHEST PLACE TO GO
I would have to say Arsenal – they were always a really hard team to play against. Highbury was a very intimidating place to go and play, while the Emirates is a lovely new stadium.
When we first got into the Premier League at Birmingham, our first game away was at Highbury. It was an eye-opener for us all.
We lost 2-0 but, in all honesty, it could have been ten! They battered us and we just couldn’t get the ball off them.
It got a bit better later in my career as I won 2-1 at the Emirates with Hull. Geovanni and Daniel Cousin scored so that made up for the defeats a bit.
I played against some top players and while I normally played in central midfield, I always remember playing on the left against Manchester United.
Unfortunately that day, Ronaldo was playing right-wing for them! He was a bit younger back then but he was still fantastic. It was a pleasure to be on the same pitch as him. He’s an unbelievable athlete and he’s just got better and better throughout his career.
The toughest playing in the middle had to be Patrick Vieira. He was key to that brilliant Arsenal team and just when you thought you’d got away from him, those big long legs would come from nowhere!
FAVOURITE PLACE TO GO
Being an Everton fan, I always enjoyed going back to Goodison Park. One of my career goals was to score at Goodison, even though I was an Everton supporter.
I lost count of the amount of chances I missed there! My first game there I got put through and pushed one past the post when I should have scored.
I always enjoyed going back there and I still try and go down to watch Everton when I’ve got some spare time. I shouldn’t say this but I enjoyed going to Anfield as well!
I’m joint-manager at Scarborough Athletic now alongside Paul Foot and it’s nice to be given the opportunity to manage such a good club.
We were assistants to the old boss Rudy Funk so it has been quite an easy transition for us and the players. We’re doing well in the EvoStik NPL Division One North and we’re hoping to build a new ground in Scarborough soon.
I’ve not really looked at anything else. I’m enjoying my coaching at Scarborough and I’m not the sort of guy who wants to change clubs a lot – it’s exciting times here.
Best manager: Steve Bruce Best team-mate: Christophe Dugarry Biggest achievement: Promotion to Premier League Funniest incident: Phil Brown’s half-time talk
Toughest opponent: Cristiano Ronaldo BLUE NOSE: Bryan Hughes in action for Birmingham, along with Clinton Morrison Favourite place to go: Goodison Park