Billy Hughes - what a player and a great character. An old-fashioned winger. Used to drift past fullbacks with a drop of the shoulder, and then he was away, producing great crosses. I well remember his corner that led to Porterfield’s goal at Wembley.
I remember in the sixties there was a bad winter and playing staff, office staff and volunteers were all out clearing the lines of snow on the Friday morning before a match at Roker Park the next day - there was no undersoil heating in those days.
I’m standing alongside Billy and he makes a big snowball. Alan Brown, the fearsome manager, was shovelling snow a good few yards away. “I bet I can get the boss” said Billy. He threw the snowball, it flew through the air like a missile and it smacked into the back of Browny’s head!
Billy was in hysterics, rolling around in the snow and Browny went crazy.
One of my jobs was to write out the team sheet and pin it up on the dressing room wall on a Friday afternoon. Alan Brown told me to write out two sheets, one with Billy’s name on, one without.
“I’ll show the Scottish man not to mess with me, put up the one with his name missing”.
Billy, who was playing brilliantly at the time, looks at the teamsheet and storms up to the office demanding to see the manager. By this time the correct sheet has been pinned up without Billy knowing. After ranting at the manager about being dropped, Alan Brown tells him he must be seeing things and kicks him out of the office.
Billy goes back down to the dressing room, sees his name on the teamsheet and spends the rest of the afternoon scratching his head wondering what had gone on.
It showed that the fearsome Alan Brown did have a sense of humour!
I had to work out the players wages - they were paid in cash in those days with the money and payslips put in little brown envelopes. Charlie Hurley came up to the office one day and told me to just put £1 in Billy’s pay packet and when he complained, tell him that all the lads had decided to donate most of that weeks wages towards buying the groundsman a new sit on mower for the Roker Park pitch.
All the lads were in on the trick, Billy opens his pay packet, sees there's only a pound in it and goes crazy. When told about the ‘donation’ Billy says “bollocks to that, the grass can grow a foot tall and I’ll still beat any fullback in the world!” We left it until later in the day when Charlie gave him his correct envelope.
Another story - I was working at Gillingham a few years later, and we were playing Charlton away. Sunderland were also playing in London and both teams were at the same hotel for their pre-match meal. I was chatting to Billy, and he asked if I fancied a drink. I asked for a lemonade. Billy brought a glass back, I took a big gulp and he’d only ordered me a big glass of neat vodka. Billy falls about laughing and wets himself. He had light grey trousers on so it was obvious what he’d done. You can imagine the stick he got from all the players!
These stories are memories that I’ll hold with me forever - it’s very sad that Billy has passed away, he was a lovely man. It’s just a pity that many of our younger fans didn’t get the chance to see him play. I bought a few pieces of turf from the wing at Roker Park when the ground closed and I like to think that Billy trod on that bit of turf when he was dancing past a fullback! Good memories, and Billy will never be forgotten.