Emlyn Hughes, who died yesterday aged 57, was the captain of Liverpool as it became the dominant force of the 1970s in both English and European football.
Hughes was signed by the club''s inspirational manager Bill Shankly as a teenager in February 1967 for £65,000, a record fee for a full-back. He had then played fewer than 30 professional matches for his club, Blackpool, but Shankly had seen in him much of his own childlike enthusiasm for the game, as well as Hughes''s innate stamina and drive.
In later years Hughes - who was not known for his modesty - liked to tell the story of how Shankly had pranged his car in his haste to drive Hughes over from Blackpool to Lytham St Anne''s to register him with the FA. As a constable began to take down Shankly''s details, the increasingly irate Scotsman asked the officer if he did not know who was in the vehicle. "No - not me!" he went on, pointing at Hughes. "The future captain of England!"
Although Shankly''s prediction was to be fulfilled, in his first few outings for his new team Hughes demonstrated that as yet his energy far outweighed his skill. His wild charges upfield, taken together with several tackles that more closely resembled illegal throws in cumberland wrestling, brought him the nickname "Crazy Horse".
Yet he quickly settled down, and once more proved that Shankly had a genius for spotting unknown players - among them Kevin Keegan and Ray Clemence - whom he could groom to replace the likes of Ian St John, Ron Yeats and Roger Hunt, who had first made the club''s modern reputation in the mid-1960s.
Hughes started as a left-sided defender, but soon moved to the centre, where he would forge successive partnerships with Larry Lloyd, Tommy Smith and then Phil Thompson. For all his coltish dynamism (never better exemplified than by his post-goal celebrations, in which he would frequently run the length of the pitch, frenetically windmilling his arms), Hughes was also a level-headed reader of the game, with a sound touch and good passing range.
This brought him into his own in the early 1970s, when Shankly decided that if Liverpool were to prosper in Europe they must dispense with the traditional type of English centre-half, to whom the ball was an unwelcome stranger, and build their attacks from the back. It was the team''s subsequent ability to blend British aggression and workrate with a Continental style of movement that made them nigh-irresistible for the next 15 years.
Having missed the 1971 FA Cup Final defeat by Arsenal, Hughes''s first trophies with Liverpool came two seasons later, when they took both the league title and the Uefa Cup, beating Borussia Moenchengladbach 3-2 on aggregate. The next year, following a row with Tommy Smith, Shankly made Hughes club captain in his place.
The change led to a long-running feud between Smith and Hughes that continued in print for decades after both had retired from the game, and led to tension in the dressing room, where the older players remained loyal to Smith and voiced their dislike of Hughes''s chattiness (and parsimony in the pub).
Following Liverpool''s 3-0 victory over Newcastle in the 1974 FA Cup Final, several players pushed Smith to the front of the celebrations, ahead of Hughes, but after Shankly''s unexpected retirement in the close season Hughes was confirmed in the post by his successor, Bob Paisley.
Hughes never had the same personal bond with Paisley as he had had with Shankly, but on the pitch he became the driving force for the side, his passion for the club and enjoyment of football evident in every game - a characteristic that made him a great favourite with the fans.
With Hughes now frequently playing in central midfield, Liverpool embarked on their great run of triumphs by winning another double of the league and Uefa Cup (this time defeating Bruges) in 1976, and then in 1977 coming close to a treble triumph. They retained the championship, lost the FA Cup Final 2-1 to Manchester United, then four days later - in their 61st game of the season - comprehensively outplayed Borussia again in Rome to claim their first European Cup. Hughes, newly voted the Football Writers'' Footballer of the Year, lifted the trophy with what the commentator Barry Davies called "the smile of the season".
That match was the last for Liverpool for both Smith and Keegan, and signalled the arrival of the player who was to take the team to still greater heights, Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool''s triumph in Rome was to be the first of six consecutive victories for English clubs in the competition, a sequence that continued when Dalglish scored the winner in the European Cup Final against Bruges the next year. In 1979 Liverpool again won the league championship, this time with a record number of points won and fewest goals conceded (a mere 16 in 42 matches).
Hughes''s achievements at Anfield had not gone unnoticed by England managers. He won his first international cap against Holland at left back in 1969, and was a squad member during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Defeat there to West Germany, however, initiated a bleak era for English football, and though Hughes went on to win 62 caps, the last in 1980, the team failed to qualify for both the 1974 and 1978 tournaments. It cannot have helped that Hughes, who largely shared the captaincy with Keegan in the mid- and late-1970s, did so under four different managers. He led the team 23 times, then the most by any captain bar Billy Wright or Bobby Moore.
After his fourth championship win with Liverpool, in July 1979 Hughes, then rising 32, moved to Wolves. He had played 665 matches for Liverpool and, having a fine shot from distance, had scored 48 goals for them. In his first season with Wolves, as captain, he won the League Cup when his side defeated Nottingham Forest 1-0 with a goal from Andy Gray. In claiming his medal, Hughes thereby completed his remarkable and well-merited sweep of all the game''s principal domestic and European club honours.
Emlyn Walter Hughes was born at Barrow-in-Furness, cumbria, on August 28 1947. He came from a family that had close ties to rugby league, which his father had played as a forward for both Barrow and Great Britain. Young Emlyn soon showed his own abilities on the soccer field and represented North Lancashire Schools before signing for Blackpool, then struggling in Division One, in 1964.
Hughes moved on from Wolves to Rotherham as player-manager in 1981. Management, however, was not to be for him, and after he left the club in 1983 he had brief spells as a player at Hull, Mansfield and John Toshack''s Swansea before retiring in 1984.
By then he had become a television personality, notably through his appearances on the long-running BBC quiz A Question of Sport. For most of the 1980s, Hughes - an open, voluble, tactile man with a somewhat high-pitched voice and dubious taste in knitwear - captained one team, presumably being cast as a fidgeting foil to his opposite number, the immobile Bill Beaumont.
Hughes''s time on the show is perhaps best remembered for the moment when his relentless banter and easy familiarity with his guests became too much for one of them - Princess Anne - who, used to dealing with ill-disciplined puppies, showed no hesitation in putting him in his place.
Hughes was, in fact, an ardent monarchist, and in 1980, when he was due to collect his OBE at Buckingham Palace, feigned an excuse for not attending when he discovered that it was due to be presented to him not by the Queen herself but by Prince Philip. He later received the appointment from her, saying afterwards: "All I''ve ever wanted to do was meet her."
His television work petered out in the late 1980s, and he subsequently worked as an after-dinner speaker, occasional television pundit, and as the director of a firm producing novelty gifts. Until recently he had commented on sport for Real Radio, based in Yorkshire. He lived near Sheffield and was a keen follower of horse racing. In 2003 he was found to have a brain tumour, and underwent emergency surgery.
He is survived by his wife Barbara, their son Emlyn and daughter Emma.
Copyright The Daily Telegraph (2004)