March 4, 2013 by Made In Brum
With Blues having played Hull City the previous weekend, The Ex-Files looks at the career of a player who turned out for both clubs. Liverpool-born midfielder Bryan Hughes began his time at St. Andrews in the late 90s, and was part of the squad for the club’s first two seasons in the Premier League.
Hughes began his career at Wrexham, where he made his debut in 1994. He only made 3 appearances in his first season at the club, but became a first team regular for the 1994/95 season, playing 46 games in all competitions and contributing 10 goals to the club’s cause. The midfielder spent one and a half more seasons at the Racecourse Ground, making another 42 appearances. He was an integral part of Wrexham’s FA Cup run in 1997, as the team reached the Quarter-Finals, with Hughes scoring 6 goals, including one against Blues, which led to Trevor Francis shelling out £800,000 to bring him to St. Andrews.
The midfield playmaker was a regular throughout Francis’ reign at Blues, making 153 appearances between the 1996/97 season and 1999/00. He gained a reputation for being a goalscoring midfielder, and 1999/00 saw him score 10 league goals, his highest number whilst at Blues. He was a 71st minute substitute in the 2001 League Cup Final, and scored the team’s fifth penalty in the shoot-out, taking it to sudden death before Andrew Johnson’s miss.
After Francis’ departure, Hughes remained a key part of Steve Bruce’s team, making 37 appearances, and scoring 9 goals in the club’s promotion winning season. He played the full 120 minutes of the Play-Off Final, and was scheduled to take the fifth kick of the penalty shoot-out, which was ultimately unnecessary thanks to Darren Carter’s famous penalty. Birmingham’s promotion to the Premier League saw Hughes’ first team opportunities limited, mainly due to the solid performances of new signings Robbie Savage and Aliou Cissé, and the midfielder made the majority of his 22 league appearances from the bench. Hughes scored the opening goal in Blues’ 2-0 victory over Sunderland on 12th April, all but guaranteeing the club’s Premier League survival for the next season. 2003/04 saw more opportunities for Hughes, including a Man of the Match performance against Leeds, in which Blues came out 4-1 victors. The midfielder scored twice, but was denied the chance to take a penalty with 10 minutes remaining by Mikael Forssell, despite calls from The Tilton for Hughes to take it. This was his last season at St. Andrews, and having made 247 appearances, and scored 34 league goals, he left the club at the end of his contract in July 2004.
Hughes joined Charlton Athletic for the 2004/05 season, but only managed 10 league starts in his first term. He did, however, figure in the final two games of the season, including the dramatic 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace on the final day of the season. Hughes opened the scoring in the game that would ultimately relegate Palace back to the Championship. In 2005/06, the midfielder gained the distinction of being the scorer of the penalty that ended José Mourinho’s unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge, as Charlton knocked them out of the League Cup in a penalty shoot-out. Mourinho, however, said that technically his team were not beaten in 120 minutes of football, claiming an extension to his side’s run. Hughes made 40 appearances that season, scoring 5 goals.
The midfielder spent one more season at The Valley before joining Hull City, where he only really enjoyed one year in the first team. Hughes played 40 games in The Tigers’ promotion winning season, often in his unfavoured position of left-midfield, but played a key role in the middle of the park at the business end of the season, playing the full 90 minutes of the Play-Off Final. After making only a single league start in Hull’s first Premiership appearance, Hughes was loaned to Derby County for the a month of the 2009/10 season, but only made 3 appearances, and agreed to a mutual termination of his Hull City contract on his return. He spent a month on a short term deal at Burton Albion, before spending the remainder of the year at Grimsby Town. After a brief stint at Icelandic club ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar, Hughes spent last season at Legaue Two side Accrington Stanley.
Currently without a club, Hughes is probably better remembered by Blues fans than our hosts on Saturday, but is held in high regard by Bluenoses for his goalscoring prowess from midfield. He played a key role in Blues’ transitional period of the early 2000s, and is associated by most with one of the club’s most prosperous periods of recent years.
By Gregg Collett – @greggcollett