PHIL’S HALF TIME PITCH TALK WAS IN­CRED­I­BLE

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Steven Coney

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...

FIRST CLUB

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.

BEST MANAGER

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.

BEST TEAM-MATE

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.

FIRST PRO­MO­TION

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.

FUN­NI­EST PLAYER

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.

FUN­NI­EST IN­CI­DENT

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!

BIG­GEST ACHIEVE­MENT

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.

LOW­EST MO­MENT

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.

TOUGH­EST OP­PO­NENT

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!

AM­BI­TION

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

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

Tough­est op­po­nent: Cris­tiano Ron­aldo BLUE NOSE: Bryan Hughes in ac­tion for Birm­ing­ham, along with Clin­ton Mor­ri­son Favourite place to go: Good­i­son Park

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