Interview: Elgan Hughes calls time on a rewarding 20-year football career

Elgan Hughes has won a number of trophies in his career

After a senior playing career spanning almost 20 years on the North and Mid Wales football scene striker Elgan Hughes has decided to hang up his shooting boots.

The former Llandyrnog United (2001-03), Penrhyncoch (2003-04), Aberystwyth University (2004-06), Ruthin Town (2006-18) and Caerwys (2019-20) player spoke to Grassroots North Wales about his life in football.

Grassroots North Wales

So you started at Llandyrnog United FC – a pretty good place to start! Who was the manager then? How old were you and what were your experiences like with the club?

Elgan Hughes

After finishing with Ruthin Youth at 16, me and a couple of others went to Llandyrnog to play senior football.

They were managed at the time by Dyrny legends Tudur Morris and Arwel Hughes before John James came in and a bit of a revolution started, with a lot of quality players joining and pushing them up the leagues.

Legendary Llandyrnog manager John James (back row, furthest left)

Coming in from youth football was a bit daunting and I remember a 10-man brawl in my first ever match which was a bit of an eye opener!

Grassroots North Wales

Next a couple of mid-Wales spells at Aberystwyth University and Penrhyncoch. I guess these were linked with student life? How much did you enjoy your football at those clubs?

Elgan Hughes

John James has links with Penrhyncoch and he put me in touch with the manager there. I played for them for a year then joined the Uni side (for the social aspect!).

However, it was a good league with a lot of good teams in there with League of Wales reserve sides such as Oswestry, Newtown, Aberystwyth and teams such as Rhayader, Caersws, Llanrhaeadr YM etc.

It was very enjoyable, some really good players involved and we won the League Cup twice and made the final of the Central Wales Cup.

Elgan on the ball for Ruthin

Grassroots North Wales

Then a long spell at Ruthin Town, for so long stalwarts of the Cymru Alliance. Was this the highest level of football you played? What were your highlights?

Elgan Hughes

Yes, a very long spell but hugely enjoyable and successful time at Ruthin.

Cymru Alliance is the highest level I’ve played with them and I have also represented Wales in an international match against Scotland.

There have been a lot of good and bad moments over the years. There was relegation down to the Wrexham Area then promotion back to the Cymru Alliance, numerous league and cup wins and it was always good to draw a big team in a cup or play at nice grounds such as TNS.

A stand out season was under John Lloyd and Arwyn Jones in the Colts, where we won the league and cup double and I also won Player’s Player that season.

Grassroots North Wales

Finally, your final season with Caerwys FC. Why did you leave Ruthin? Did you feel ready for a step down? How was it at Caerwys and their young but very capable manager Jordan Hadaway? A fine club to play for I’d imagine.

Elgan Hughes

I had been at Ruthin for a long time and started to think about when to call it a day but the Ruthin Development Squad manager Ethan Jones asked me to play for him there and help out where I could with my experience etc.

So when he moved to Caerwys he asked me to follow.

I thought about it for a while, then agreed to try something different whilst I still could. Certainly a different challenge, in a team and league I’d never played in before but it was really enjoyable. A real community club with a lot of local interest and people willing to give up their time to volunteer around the place.

I got made captain halfway through the season and finished as top goalscorer and manager’s player of the season so very happy with the decision to move there.

I think that Jordan will do well in his managerial career, has some good ideas, comes across very well despite being so young and I’m sure our paths will cross again in the future.

Elgan (red) on the attack

Grassroots North Wales

What is behind your decision to retire? Had Covid-19 played a part, the way it has affected grassroots football so badly, or did you feel it was simply time?

Elgan Hughes

It’s a combination of both really.

I thought at the start of last season I had one or two good seasons left but as COVID has massively disrupted the game and with no real idea as to when the lower Tiers will start up again I made the decision to finally hang up the boots.

That and having a young family as well it was becoming harder to commit to multiple training sessions and games every week.

Grassroots North Wales

Looking back, do you have a favourite moment/game as a player? What about the best goal you ever scored?

Elgan Hughes

Again, there’s been so many.

As a proud Welshman, playing for Wales is something I won’t forget but there’s a lot of other favourite moments; one of the more recent ones was scoring a perfect hat-trick despite missing an earlier penalty!

Being only 5ft 7 any header I score is always a favourite, but probably my best goal was a 30 yard volley in a cup final to bring the score back to 2-2 which we then won 3-2!

Grassroots North Wales

Now you are retiring from playing, will you still remain involved in football?

Elgan Hughes

Yes I certainly will be looking to stay involved.

I would like to go into coaching, my eldest son is nearly 5 so in a few years he will be playing U7s so I will be looking to help out there.

There’s also a good Vets football set-up in Ruthin too, so when the season gets going I will probably look to play a bit with them if I can.

Grassroots North Wales

Who is the best player you have played alongside, and your toughest opponent?

Elgan Hughes

Llyr Morris recently signed for Bala Town after a prolific few years at Ruthin

I’ve been lucky enough to play with a lot of quality players over the years.

Players like Chris Williams, Ceri James, Craig Wilkinson and Ryan Harden spring to mind but also recently players like Llyr Morris, who’s just moved to Bala and also Ilan Hughes, who’s moved to Aberystwyth.

Toughest has to be either Colin Caton for Bala or Aneurin Thomas for Aberystwyth. Both beasts of centre-halves and I’m glad that I didn’t have to play against them too often.

Grassroots North Wales

How would you sum up your football career? How would you like to be remembered?

Elgan Hughes

I think I’d like to remembered as a consistent goal scorer who has always given 100% be it in matches or in training.

Looking back I’ve averaged around 15 goals a season so I think I’ve probably scored around 250 goals in my career.

I’ve filled in when needed probably all positions on the pitch at some point apart from goalkeeper but without being too spectacular, bit of a Mr Dependable!

I’ve really enjoyed everywhere I’ve played and made lots of friends and I am very grateful to everyone who has shown faith in me and helped me to achieve what I have.

Grassroots North Wales

As an Evertonian, how inspired are you by this amazing start to the season? Can you see anything special happening for the Toffees in 2020-21?

Carlo Ancelotti, manager of Everton, talks to star player James Rodriguez (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Elgan Hughes

I really hope so! It’s been a long time without any silverware!

In Carlo Ancelotti they have a fantastic manager and he’s made shrewd signings which seem to be paying off so far.

I think European qualification is a must this season whatever happens and hopefully that will help to attract players of even higher calibre to the club.

It’s just a shame we aren’t allowed to go to Goodison to watch them!

Grassroots North Wales

Finally, a general question. Is Ryan Giggs the right man for Wales and can we do well in the Euros again? Are we better equipped than we were in 2016?

Elgan Hughes

I think he is doing a good job and helping to develop and bring through some of the younger players.

If we can keep our best and experienced players fit then I can’t see why we can’t challenge in the Euros again.

If we can play Bale, Ramsey, Allen, Brooks, James etc consistently together whilst nurturing Neco, Matondo, Ampadu then we have a very strong side and strength in depth too.

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