CELTIC legend John ‘Yogi’ Hughes has passed away at the age of 79.
The eighth-highest scorer in the club’s history with 189 goals died after a short illness.
Hughes was a phenomenon as he broke into the Parkhead first team after signing as a 16 year old from Junior club Shotts Bon Accord on October 3 1959. He was over six feet and powerfully built, but possessed a natural grace and was superb with the ball at his feet.
He scored on his debut – a 2-0 League Cup win over Third Lanark at Parkhead on August 13 1960 – and fired in a remarkable EIGHTY goals in his first four years as a Hoops player – in a Celtic team that was in the doldrums with their last silverware success coming in the 7-1 rout of Rangers in the League Cup Final in October 1957.
CELTIC LEGENDS…Billy McNeill and John Hughes at the start of their Parkhead careers.
The side, managed by all-time leading marksman Jimmy McGrory, scorer of a remarkable 550 goals, could not even come close to eumulating that feat, despite the prolific striking contribution from their young and exciting Coatbridge-born centre-forward.
Hughes may have been raw, but he was a willing worker in a line-up that often consisted of team-mates who were clearly not Celtic class as the club lost its way in the early to mid-sixties.
That all changed when Jock Stein arrived in March 1965 to succeed McGrory who moved into a PR role.
Fittingly, Hughes played a pivotal role in the club’s 3-2 Scottish Cup Final victory over Dunfermline a month later to end eight years of misery with captain Billy McNeill heading in the winner near the end. It was the start of something fabulous.
Celtic returned to Hampden in October that year and Hughes thumped two penalty-kicks beyond Rangers keeper Billy Ritchie as Stein’s men won the League Cup.
TEENAGE YOGI…John Hughes in action after making his debut at the age of 17.
Hughes played in five out of the eight games leading up to the unforgettable 2-1 European Cup Final triumph over Inter Milan in a gloriously sunny evening in Lisbon on May 25 1967.
He sat in the stand at the Estadio Nacional and roared himself hoarse encouraging his colleagues all the way on their breathtaking quest to become the first British club to conquer Europe.
Yogi would have much preferred to have been in the thick of the action, but he had once again contributed massively to the historic bid with his outstanding performances in the ties against Zurich (2), Vojvodina (2) and Dukla Prague (1) on the team’s journey to the Portuguese capital.
He earned a winner’s medal for those efforts and was rightly acclaimed as a Lisbon Lion.
HEADS I WIN…John Hughes leaps ahead of Jack Charlton to net Celtic’s leveller in the 2-1 European Cup semi-final thriller at Hampden in April 1970.
The player had one of the greatest games of his career in front of a record crowd of 136,505 on a Wednesday evening on April 15 1970 at Hampden Park when Celtic overwhelmed Leeds United 2-1 in a dramatic European Cup semi-final.
Stein brought in Hughes from his outside-left position to play up front against the Elland Road’s acclaimed England World Cup-winning centre-half Jack Charlton.
Yogi ran amok and netted a rare header for a precious equaliser after his Scotland team-mate Billy Bremner had rifled the visitors into an early lead to wipe out George Connelly’s goal from the first leg in Yorkshire.
Bobby Murdoch whipped in the winner with a crisp right-foot drive, but, alas, there was to be no reward on this occasion with Feyenoord lifting the trophy with a goal three minutes from the end of extra-time in Milan the following month.
PLAYER AND MANAGER…John Hughes has a shot at goal during training watched by boss Jock Stein.
Hughes left his beloved Celtic much against his wishes in a joint transfer with Willie Wallace to Crystal Palace on October 19 1971.
He was so upset he never again communicated with Jock Stein.
In his 11 years as a Celtic player, Hughes won six league titles, four League Cups and one Scottish Cup.
He also represented Scotland on eight occasions and claimed one goal, against England in a 1-1 draw at the national sadium in 1968.
In full flight, Hughes was one of the most exciting, enthralling, exhilarating sights in the club’s Hall of Fame.
After his football career was over, following a spell in charge of Scotland international Juniors, he spent every match day in the stand at Celtic Park supporting the team that remained closest to his heart until the very end.
Rest in peace, John Hughes, Celtic legend.