Emlyn Hughes on England and how his Liverpool team would have stopped Thierry Henry.
THEN AND NOW: Former Liverpool and England skipper Emlyn Hughes talks about World Cup call-ups, Steve Morgan and how his Liverpool team would have stopped Thierry Henry.
Emlyn Hughes was dubbed 'Crazy Horse' by The Kop shortly after signing from Blackpool.
He went on to become the greatest captain in Liverpool’s history, leading them to four League Championships, two UEFA Cups, the FA Cup and their first European Cup in 1977.
He went on to skipper Wolves to the 1980 League Cup Final and also captained England on 23 occasions. Emlyn now lives in Sheffield and is recovering from brain cancer.
He still indulges in his lifelong passion for horseracing and presents a phone-in show on Real Radio in Leeds.
Then - Sven announces his Euro 2004 squad on Monday. Do you have any memories of squad announcements?
I was called up by Alf (Sir Alf Ramsey) for the 1970 World Cup squad in Mexico. It was a bit of a surprise, because I had only just broken into my first England squad and Alf had a reputation for sticking with his tried and trusted.
I was at Melwood and Shanks (Bill Shankly) and Bob Paisley called me into their office and gave me the news that I was going to Mexico. It was unbelievable for a 21-year-old who was still learning the game.
The unfortunate thing is that although I was sub a couple of times, I never came on. England failed to qualify for the next two tournaments and it is one of the biggest regrets of my career that I never played in the World Cup.
Now - Do you think Arsenal are the best League team ever?
Listen, everyone knows the game is quicker now and players are fitter. But so would we be if we trained in the modern era.
The Liverpool side were untouchable in the 1970s and that’s despite having great Leeds, Arsenal and Manchester United teams to challenge us. It’s a big debate who would win out of the old Liverpool and the new Arsenal.
I honestly believe that we kept possession so well, Arsenal would struggle to get the ball off us. I could see Thierry Henry standing in the centre circle after half an hour being despondent and asking where the ball is.
We would keep the ball too well for them.
Then - Did winning the League Championship mean more than the European Cup?
I would have to say yes. I went to Liverpool in 1967 and we didn’t win the League title for five years.
After that we didn’t seem to stop winning it but it never lost its appeal. Every season we would tour the city in an open-top bus and the crowds would turn out.
European trophies were fantastic of course and gave us a reputation around the world but, for a player, to be top dog in England after a full season was the most rewarding.
Now - What do you think the Liverpool board should do now?
Clearly, they have to do something to get themselves back challenging for the League title.
I call success winning championships or European trophies. Not fourth place or anything like that. There are a couple of offers on the table from Steve Morgan and Thailand offering extra money. I couldn’t say which one is better but the Board shouldn’t automatically go for the bigger sum.
Shankly picked up Kevin Keegan for £35,000 and he went on to win Liverpool a European Cup. I know times have changed but there is more to reaching the top than going out and spending the most money.
Chelsea have spent something like £100million this season but Arsenal still won the title.
Then - Not too many people succeed after leaving Liverpool but you did at Wolves...
I thought I was finished when I left Liverpool to be honest. My legs had gone and I had only been in the team for my last two years at Anfield because of my leadership qualities.
I am sure there were better defenders at the club but being a captain is very important – you need someone to egg on the rest of the players, to shout, cuddle, encourage and do all those things.
Liverpool didn’t have anyone like that until Graeme Souness emerged so I stayed on past my sell-by date really. Then John Barnwell came in and asked me if I fancied captaining Wolves and helping them become a proper football side.
I wasn’t sure if I could do the job but we had a fantastic few years; winning the League Cup, finishing fourth in the First Division and reaching a couple of FA Cup semi-finals. It was the type of success the club hadn’t had for 25 years.
Now - Do you see many of your old Liverpool players at the horseracing?
I still go racing when I can and I’m glad to say I had a tenner each way on Amberleigh House for the National this year. I had a great day at Aintree, Kenny Dalglish was there, and Terry McDermott.
Lots of the lads still ring me regularly. Graeme Souness has just been on the phone, he calls me every other week. I’ve had treatment for this brain cancer but so far the doctors say I am doing fine, touch wood.
I still go to watch football. I have seen Liverpool six or eight times this season and as I live in Sheffield, I watch Wednesday and United.
I hear about Ken Bates being interested in Wednesday – I hope he knows it’s a big job now to turn that club around!
Then - Which team-mate did you have the most respect for?
Kenny Dalglish was the best, followed by Graeme Souness. Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen are very good players now but Kenny and Graeme would walk into any team from any era.
Now - Can England win Euro 2004?
We all want England to do well of course but if I had to pick a winner, I would have to go for the hosts Portugal.