Mark Hughes had two spells at Manchester United, from 1980-1986 and 1988-1995. Often a scorer of spectacular goals, Hughes was an integral part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s first great United side.
A later spell as Manchester City manager might have dulled some of the shine for Reds, but novelist Steven Kedie tells us why Mark Hughes is his “Hero of Youth.”
you can read more about Steven at the bottom of the article…
MARK HUGHES, by Steven Kedie.
It happened because of a coincidence. His cousin lived on my road. When I first started supporting United, she said: “My cousin plays for United.” As a seven year old, that might have been the best sentence I’d ever heard. My cousin lived in St Helens and was quite good at horse riding, which didn’t really seem to compare.
“Who is it?” I asked.
“Mark Hughes,” she said.
Mark Hughes. Not a reserve player I’d yet to learn about or a youth team player that wouldn’t get near the first team. Mark Hughes, the centre forward. His cousin lived on my road, which, at seven, technically meant I knew him. Armed with this new information I watched him closely. His touch and movement were studied in great detail. He was good. Actually scratch that.
He was great. And his cousin lived on my road.
So he became my hero.
In fairness to Hughes, he didn’t rely on his cousin’s address to keep the job. That would’ve been lazy by hero standards. No, he cemented his position in the role because of his ability and play.
Heroes are people we look up to and aspire to be. And Hughes was everything the seven year old (and at times the current day me) wasn’t. He was brave and hard. He would take the ball in any situation and hold it, fighting off defenders with a level strength I’d never seen before. And he scored goals, something I never managed to grasp the finer art of.
And what goals.
Watch a compilation of Hughes’ goals for United on Youtube and there is a theme that runs through them. Control. Every goal seems to be hard and low, drilled with such accuracy and intent that it couldn’t be luck. This was highlighted for me on the night in Rotterdam when United won the Cup Winners’ Cup against Barcelona.
Hughes scored United’s second by rounding the goalkeeper at the edge of the area and taking the ball to an angle that looked too tight to score from. Faced with this position modern players would probably take an extra touch and move towards goal, or try chip the ball in to avoid a defender running back to block a shot on the line.
He drilled it. Hard. At an angle that took the ball into the far corner.
My hero, in the biggest game I had witnessed for the club at my young age, had scored the best goal I’d ever seen.
That’s why they are our heroes. Because they do things we dream of doing.
Hughes was known as a scorer of great goals, not a great goal scorer (his United record was 120 goals in 345 games over two spells at the club). There are so many great goals to list but the scissor kick against City in the 5-1 defeat and a smashed shot from nearly forty yards against Sheffield Wednesday at Old Trafford stand out for me. And, of course, that goal against Oldham in the FA Cup semi-final.
Mark Hughes Scores for Manchester United vs. Oldham Athletic (photo from Daily Mail)
In the last minute of extra time, 1 nil down. The ball gets hooked over the defence, and Hughes battling with his marker, reaches out and volleys the ball into the net. It’s the perfect Hughes goal. A spectacular goal, full of strength and power. Full of control.
As a child I had a video, ‘The Mark Hughes Story’, which I played repeatedly. On this video, along with finding out that as a schoolboy he played in goal at playtimes because he was the only one brave enough to dive on concrete, I discovered a goal that made me love him more. It was for Wales against Spain. The ball was cleared by a defender and Hughes, just inside the area, jumped up to what seems like crossbar height and scissor kicked the ball into the top corner of the net.
I tried and tried to recreate this goal in the garden, throwing the ball off the garage. I still don’t know how he jumped that high.
Hughes and the game have moved on. I have loved other players. Players with more flair or better haircuts. Players who can beat a man with the swivel of a hip or the simple flick of a pass.
But at times I miss Hughes’ way. The strong, direct way. The way that says all that fancy stuff is great but sometimes you need to stop pissing about and hit the ball hard and low.
The best goal I’ve ever seen live was scored by Wayne Rooney against Newcastle. I was stood right behind the goal as Rooney, after arguing with the referee, unleashed a volley that flew into the net. I love that goal. It was spectacular; full of power and control. In short, it was the sort of goal that Mark Hughes would score.
One Christmas, the younger me walked down the road delivering cards. I posted most of them. When I got to Hughes’ cousin’s house, I knocked on the door. I gave the family their card and then took another one of my pocket. “Can you give this to Mark for me?” His cousin said she’d make sure he got it.
I don’t know if he did, but I hope to this day he got to read the note from his big fan telling him how great he thought he was.
click here to read more in the “Heroes of Youth” series
Born in Manchester in 1982, Steven Kedie began writing at an early age. In secondary school Steven wrote a script as part of a drama project on bullying. It was the first piece of writing he shared with anyone. The positive feedback received lit a fire in him and he’s been writing ever since.
Steven’s first novel is called “Suburb” and further details can be found at: www.stevenkedie.com