Barry Hughes (Photo: Han Meijer Sr.)

Barry Hughes (1937-2019)

Sporting an archetypical British working-class flat cloth cap that covered his bald pate and an almost permanent mischievous twinkle in his eye, Barry Hughes was a beloved character along the touchlines of Dutch professional soccer from the mid-1960s until the late 1980s.

For more in-depth coverage of Barry Hughes, read issue 49 of Dutch the magazine.

Welshman Hughes was a promising young soccer player, who started his professional career at the age of sixteen with West Bromwich Albion, but he broke his leg during a game against Manchester United and after that never regained his earlier prowess. After playing for Amsterdam team Blauw Wit, Hughes coached several mid-tier Dutch soccer clubs.

With his charming accent and his penchant for pranks, Hughes became a bigger personality than would be expected based on his soccer career alone. Much referenced and fondly remembered is the time when during a match he blew raspberries at opposing coach Georg Kessler, a strait-laced German disciplinarian. With a big smile on his face, he egged on the supporters in the stands behind him in ridiculing his rival.

No stranger to self-mockery either, he scored a national hit record with the carnival song Ik wil op mijn kop een kamerbreed tapijt (‘I want wall-to-wall carpeting on my head’) and also made fun of his male pattern baldness by appearing in a commercial for house plant fertilizer.

Ask many Dutch people about Hughes and they will reference his carnival hit before his soccer career. Although he accepted this, there was some regret. In a 1995 interview he said that he thought that the chance of managing a top club had eluded him because he was thought of as a clown more than an accomplished soccer coach.

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Original article by: Tom Bijvoet