FA Cup winner Hughes: 'Even though I got a winner’s medal, to this day I couldn’t tell you where it is.' (From Bournemouth Echo)
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FA Cup winner Hughes: 'Even though I got a winner’s medal, to this day I couldn’t tell you where it is.'
FOR a man with an FA Cup-winning medal somewhere at home, Richard Hughes’s magical moment came in far less glamorous surroundings.
The bright lights of Wembley were to follow with bitter-sweet memories but, when Hughes recalls his favourite script, Fratton Park is the location.
Amid the trademark din of Portsmouth’s wonderful, historic spit-and-sawdust home, Hughes went from unsung hero to headline-grabber with one swing of the boot.
So if any of his current colleagues want to know how to defeat Liverpool in the famous old competition, the 34-year-old Scotsman possesses the winning formula.
“Our run to win the FA Cup with Portsmouth culminated in being able to play European football which was a major highlight for me. That all came from this marvellous competition.
"Even at Bournemouth, I always enjoyed the FA Cup and had a little bit of luck, scoring a few goals for the club first time round.
“In my time at Portsmouth, probably my most significant personal moment came when scoring the winner in a fifth-round replay against a very good Liverpool side in 2003-04.
"To this day, that was probably the major personal achievement which I look back on. It felt surreal having scored a goal of that importance.
“It is a cup which always has a special place in my heart.”
Hughes’s FA Cup goals in the red and black came in 3-0 victories over Nuneaton and Worksop during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 campaigns, respectively.
Understandably, his strike against a mighty Reds team – which included the likes of Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen – ranks a fair bit higher.
After Pompey had earned a home replay with a 1-1 draw at Anfield, Hughes punished an Owen penalty miss to fire past Chris Kirkland and reach the quarter-finals.
Hughes explained: “They missed a penalty through Michael Owen and we had one or two chances on the counter attack.
"One of the chances fell to me – I won’t say fortunately because I wouldn’t have necessarily been the first player in our team who you would have picked – but the result was exactly what we hoped for.
“At the time, we had a really good atmosphere at Fratton Park. We prided ourselves on beating some of the big guns so it was special.
"We ended up losing the quarter-finals to a fantastic Arsenal team who came down to Fratton and put in one of the best performances I have seen to beat us 5-1.
“It didn’t end in the glory that it ultimately would do a few years later at Portsmouth.”
That glory came in 2008 but, for Hughes, the memories are not all positive.
By featuring in a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford in the last eight, he helped deliver a knockout blow to Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
However, when Pompey defeated Cardiff at Wembley to lift the famous trophy, Hughes was not included in the matchday squad.
After gracing the hallowed turf as a substitute in a semi-final against Tottenham in 2010, Hughes was an unused sub as Chelsea won the showpiece 1-0.
Asked about his Wembley recollections, he admitted: “Bitter-sweet, to be perfectly honest.
“In the first year we got to the final and ended up winning it, I wasn’t stripped and even though I got a winner’s medal, to this day I couldn’t tell you where it is.
“It doesn’t feel like I won the FA Cup even though, squad-wise, I played my part in the early stages.
"In fact, I was involved when we won at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals, which was definitely our hardest assignment that year.
“After then, we were the only Premier League club left in the competition so expectation changed in that we almost had to win it. Two 1-0 victories got the job done but, to be honest, I don’t have great memories of that final.
“It was fantastic for Portsmouth and my friends but when you are fit and able, and especially when I had been involved prior to that, I don’t look back to that day with great memories.
“Then, two years later when we got to the final, I was unfortunate with an injury. I required a hernia operation and I was probably lucky just to get stripped for that one.
"Even though I was involved in the semi-final, I was hobbling around. It was good to be involved and the day was a strange one.
“We were very much second favourites. We had been relegated and the club was in disarray at the beginning of what proved to be a very slippery downward spiral.
“Kevin-Prince Boateng missed a penalty, otherwise it could have been different because we gave a very good account of ourselves in the final. I believe a second-half penalty at 0-0 would have gone a long way to cementing another FA Cup win for Portsmouth.
“It wasn’t to be but, nonetheless, to be involved in a squad and team which reached two FA Cup finals in three years was fantastic.”
- Hughes's story features in today's bumper 24-page Cherries supplement which includes interviews with FA Cup hero Milton Graham, Liverpool fan Eunan O'Kane and John Hold, who played against the Reds in 1968.
We also pick out the danger men from Anfield and look at one of the biggest FA Cup shocks in Liverpool's history.
All in today's Echo, just 85p.
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