Sunday, 30 January 2011

Andy Hughes: An example of what fans want to see in a player

Fernando Torres is the latest in a line of players to hand in a transfer request so as to push forward a move away from his current club. As players' loyalties to clubs dwindle, Max Smithson looks back at Andy Hughes' Leeds United career and explains what he thinks it takes to win the fans hearts.

It’s 19th April 2008 and Leeds are 1-0 up away at Millwall with 11 minutes left. Substitute Andy Hughes then finishes off a lovely passing move from all of two yards out to clinch Leeds United’s promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking... or so it should have been. Had Leeds not been given a 15 point deduction at the start of that season, Hughes’ only goal for the club would have been one of the most talked about in Leeds’ history. Instead, it will only be revered by the 1,892 Leeds fans who made the trip to Millwall that day who can say that they witnessed the only goal and subsequent hilarious celebration of one of the most popular players to have worn the white shirt.

The reason for this article is that last week Hughes left Leeds for Scunthorpe United, much to the disappointment of all Leeds fans, not because he is especially talented, but because he embodied everything a fan wants a footballer to be. All too often these days we are seeing players becoming more and more out of touch with reality, and many fans are feeling alienated from the sport they love because of it. For us, footballers are living our dream. Turning out for the club we have supported all our lives every week and being paid handsomely for it. So many players seem to forget what a privileged position they are in and how much their work matters to the fans – just look at Rooney, Tevez and now Torres this season.

If these players who are becoming increasingly frustrating for fans took a leaf out of Andy Hughes’ book, football would be in a much better state. The efforts that Andy Hughes went to to make himself so widely loved by Leeds fans are not anything extraordinary but it these small gestures that fans appreciate so much, ensuring that they will always be behind you. The first of which is to always give 110%, right till the death. Hughes was always the first to admit that he was not the most gifted of players and did not have the same ability as others but to Leeds fans it did not matter because he always gave everything on the pitch. He wore his heart on his sleeve and never gave up. Fans love to see this sort of commitment because we would be doing the same if we were out there. We care so much about our teams, so it is great when we see a player playing as if he has as much passion as we do. It is this reason why it was so hard for us to watch England's abject performance at the World Cup. How could anyone appear to lack passion when playing in a World Cup for their country?

Secondly, a player must show his appreciation of the fans. This really does not take much effort but believe me, it counts for a lot. It only takes two minutes of a player’s time before his shower, but after you have travelled over 200 miles to Exeter to stand on an unsafe terrace in the pissing rain to watch your team lose 2-0 you feel the least the players can do is to come over to the away end and clap the fans a bit to thank you for your support. Hughes always did this, no matter what the result and he was always the last player left clapping. He was also looking to give something back to the fans and the community, attending fan events and being involved in LUDO (Leeds United Disabled Organisation) as well as other charity projects.
Finally, and probably the most important trait for fans in a player, is loyalty. Sadly, this is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in modern footballers. It is very unusual now that we see a player only playing for one club during his whole career but players such as Matt Le Tissier deserve huge credit to staying loyal to the club who gave them a career. It pains me to see youth players leave small teams for teams such as Chelsea despite not having made an appearance for the club which has spent many years developing them through the academy. They are convinced that this is the path to stardom but often they struggle to make an impression with so many quality players in front of them. Players are too quick to move for a better financial deal when the footballing aspect could be detrimental to their career.

The reason for Andy Hughes’ move to Scunthorpe is that they offered him an 18 month contract and with his contract at Leeds expiring at the end of the season, Hughes had to consider his long-term future. It is somewhat fitting that Hughes’ last appearance for Leeds (the draw with Arsenal at the Emirates) came almost exactly a year after the victory at Old Trafford, a match in which he had made Obertan look disticntly average. A great way to bring the curtain down on a Leeds career that will be fondly remembered for many years to come, showing that you do not have to be a special talent to win the hearts of the fans if you have the right attitude and commitment.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...


  1. Hughsey is a legend

  2. One of the most dislikeable and untalented footballers I've seen play for Norwich. His lack of concentration always bothered me, then he took the time to patronise us afterwards by his happy clappy antics as they became known, basically sucking up to the fans he knew he had let down for the 90mins previous. Some Norwich fans did like him but for me when he was with us, he summed up how far we had fallen in a short space of time.

    We signed him for about 500k I think from Reading. I remember during us being thrashed at the Madjetski, the Reading fans were howling with laughter at his mistakes and chanting 'how much did you pay for him?'. It was all to much for me, I had to leave the stadium I was so offended that one of our players was basically a joke wherever he had been and in turn was making a joke of my club

    I know it sounds harsh but I just have very little time for these sort of players. If they worked on developing their talent then they wouldn't spend the whole game chasing balls they had given away in the first place.

  3. Its the job of the fans to love the club, not the players, and I can't judge them too harshly for being pragmatic about their careers. Most of us happily change our place of work if we're offered an improved contract so I think its hypocritical to hold footballers to a different standard. Unless you're Robbie Keane who apparently supported every team in the country as a boy you have little affiliation with the club.

    Torres is a kid from Spain who moved to Liverpool wanting Champion's League football and they're looking at missing out two years running. Tevez embodies all the qualities you've described above yet you unfairly single him out for criticism even though Andy Hughes eventually left because he was offered a better contract, just like nigh on every other footballer. I fully agree that it's important to see determination, effort and appreciation from the players in recognition of the loyal supporters but I can't begrudge players for moving on if they're offered a better deal elsewhere. Maybe that is a reflection of the current game but there's very few one club players any more unless the club matches their skill and ambition.

  4. Andy Hughes came to Leeds when most players would not venture near. We had been 'awarded' a 15 point deduction because HMRC would not allow us to exit adminstration in the Football Leagues reescribed manner. His attitude was 'we will overcome the penalty and still succeed'. He wasnt the most talented to say the least but he did a workmanlike job better than most by application, effort and determination. The critical Leeds crowd loved hoim for that and his celebration when we were promoted at the end of last year (one of his best games for Leeds after being reduced to 10 men in the first half)was a joy to see. A fans player who moved on when his time came as he admitted with a heavy heart.
    Great article.

  5. Leeds are going up!!!!!

  6. Dreadful Footballer.

  7. What a well written article. As a leeds united season ticket holder, I have seen enough of the badge kissing football players who pretend to love my club as much as I do to last me a lifetime.

    Andy Hughes represented the club I love with a passion only a Leeds United fan could possibly understand. I have felt the frustration the Norwich fan, who wrote earlier, felt. However, Hughsey gave me a belief that, in the lower leagues at least, giving everything you have got for the sake of the team, the fans and yourself, would bring about a positive result. He deserves every success in his remaining football career. An articulate man that he is, once he hangs his boots up, probably an even better manager than player.

  8. One thing that I think that fans want of their favorites players. it is that they play well and they should be humble

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