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The Journey of Caernarfon Born, Barry Hughes: Welsh Footballer turned Dutch Football Icon

Born in the heart of Caernarfon on a chilly New Year's Eve in 1937, Barry Hughes would go on to leave an indelible mark on Dutch football as a player, coach, and manager. After a career spanning over three decades, Hughes' story is one of ambition, talent, and an insatiable love for the beautiful game.


From Wales to the Netherlands

Hughes' footballing journey began within the youth ranks of English club West Bromwich Albion. However, a devastating injury in a game against Manchester United, at the tender age of 21, abruptly ended his career in the UK. Hughes, however, was not one to be easily deterred. In search of new adventures, he travelled to the Netherlands in 1960 to play for Blauw-Wit Amsterdam and later Alkmaar '54.

Hughes' stint in Dutch football was marked by a series of notable performances. He quickly became a pivotal player, captaining Alkmaar '54 to the Division Two title in 1963. He showed his leadership skills on and off the pitch, earning the respect and admiration of his peers
Barry Hughes Captaining Alkmaar'54

Making a Mark as a Player

Hughes' stint in Dutch football was marked by a series of notable performances. He quickly became a pivotal player, captaining Alkmaar '54 to the Division Two title in 1963. He showed his leadership skills on and off the pitch, earning the respect and admiration of his peers.


Transitioning to Coaching

In 1966, after retiring as a player, Hughes made a seamless transition to coaching, starting with Alkmaar '54. His coaching journey would lead him to manage several Dutch clubs, including HFC Haarlem, Go Ahead Eagles, Sparta Rotterdam, FC Utrecht, MVV, and FC Volendam. It was during his time at HFC Haarlem that he crossed paths with two of the most significant figures in Dutch football - Louis van Gaal and Ruud Gullit.


Crossing Paths with Van Gaal

Hughes and Van Gaal's paths crossed during his first stint at Sparta Rotterdam in 1980. Van Gaal, then a midfielder and the team's captain, had a reputation for being opinionated. Hughes, however, was not one to shy away from confrontation. He stripped Van Gaal of his captaincy, causing some tension between the two. Despite this, Hughes reappointed Van Gaal as captain in his third season, showing his ability to manage team dynamics effectively.

Perhaps one of Hughes' most significant contributions to the world of football was his discovery and nurturing of Ruud Gullit. In 1978, Hughes signed Gullit, then a teenager, to HFC Haarlem for a reported fee of around £1,000. Under Hughes' guidance, Gullit would go on to become one of the greatest players in the history of football.
Barry Hughes, Discovering a gifted Ruud Gullit

Discovering Gullit

Perhaps one of Hughes' most significant contributions to the world of football was his discovery and nurturing of Ruud Gullit. In 1978, Hughes signed Gullit, then a teenager, to HFC Haarlem for a reported fee of around £1,000. Under Hughes' guidance, Gullit would go on to become one of the greatest players in the history of football.

Hughes' impact on Dutch football extended beyond his coaching abilities. He was known for his unique approach to the game, often seen wearing a 'dai cap' (a flat cap) in the dugout. This quirky fashion choice made him a beloved figure among fans. Beyond his sartorial choices, Hughes also made a significant contribution to the branding of Dutch football. It was during his time at Go Ahead that he added the suffix 'Eagles' to the team's name, drawing inspiration from the city's coat of arms.
Go Ahead Eagles - Football Badge

Hughes' Impact on Dutch Football

Hughes' impact on Dutch football extended beyond his coaching abilities. He was known for his unique approach to the game, often seen wearing a 'dai cap' (a flat cap) in the dugout. This quirky fashion choice made him a beloved figure among fans.

Beyond his sartorial choices, Hughes also made a significant contribution to the branding of Dutch football. It was during his time at Go Ahead that he added the suffix 'Eagles' to the team's name, drawing inspiration from the city's coat of arms.


Music Career

In a surprising turn of events, Hughes also ventured into the world of music. He released a 7" single in 1978 titled "Voetbal is Koning" (Football is king) and another single in 1981 with "De Kwaffeurs". The latter song, a humourous take on his baldness, reached the seventh position in the Dutch top 40 charts.


Personal Life

Off the pitch, Hughes led a fulfilling personal life. He married Dutch TV personality Elles Berger in 1965, and the couple had three daughters and six grandchildren. Hughes retired to Amsterdam, where he lived until his death on 2 June 2019.

Barry Hughes' remarkable journey from the Welsh town of Caernarfon to the pinnacle of Dutch football is a testament to his talent, ambition, and love for the game. He may have started his career in Wales, but his heart belonged to Dutch football. His influence was felt not just on the pitch but also off it, as he shaped the careers of future footballing greats and left an indelible mark on Dutch football. In the words of Gullit, "It was my Haarlem trainer, Barry, who taught me the lessons of football". This statement underscores the profound impact Hughes had on the players he coached and the clubs he managed. His story serves as an inspiration to aspiring footballers and coaches alike, proving that with passion, talent, and a bit of luck, one can make a lasting impact in the world of football.
Barry Hughes, donning the famous flat cap.

Legacy

Barry Hughes' remarkable journey from the Welsh town of Caernarfon to the pinnacle of Dutch football is a testament to his talent, ambition, and love for the game. He may have started his career in Wales, but his heart belonged to Dutch football. His influence was felt not just on the pitch but also off it, as he shaped the careers of future footballing greats and left an indelible mark on Dutch football.

In the words of Gullit, "It was my Haarlem trainer, Barry, who taught me the lessons of football". This statement underscores the profound impact Hughes had on the players he coached and the clubs he managed. His story serves as an inspiration to aspiring footballers and coaches alike, proving that with passion, talent, and a bit of luck, one can make a lasting impact in the world of football.


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