Alan Hughes, Fleet Street stalwart, has died

Alan Hughes, a former secretary and chairman of the Association, has died. DAVE RICHMAN pays tribute

Fleet Street has lost another stalwart of sports journalism with the death of Alan Hughes at the Journalists’ Home in Dorking at the weekend. He was 83.

Alan was one of the old school of hot metal men who worked hard and played hard. The great loves of his life were his family, newspapers, football, particularly Birmingham City, and Malden Golf Club. Get him round the bar in a Fleet Street hostelry or over a pint or three at the 19th hole, where the golf was incidental, and mention football and he would tell anyone who would listen about his beloved Blues of St Andrews.

Born in 1928, Hughes joined the Daily Mail from the Birmingham Mail in the mid 1950s and soon became one of the most respected desk men in Fleet Street. He left for the old Daily Herald, where he was chief sub and deputy sports editor, and stayed on for the birth of the new Sun.

Then came a call to help launch and become editor of a weekly football magazine called Goal. It was the football home he had been looking for and it was an immediate success, enjoyed by players and fans alike.

One great memory from that time was when he became one of the first people to take a party of football fans abroad. Everything was set for them to see Bobby Moore’s England play Malta shortly after the the 1970 World Cup tournament. A plane was chartered and match tickets were organised. With the internet still a distant dream, he waited for the post to roll in with Goal readers booking their place on board the flight.

Nothing. A postal problem threatened to wipe out all his plans. With no post getting through, what could he do with a half-empty plane? No problem. “I’ll get my mates to help out,” he said. Many phone calls later and the plane was full with friends from all over the country. A return flight, 4-star hotel and a match ticket… all for £10. The Hughes honour was saved.

That was Alan. No problem would beat him. Until Prime Minister Ted Heath came along and introduced his infamous three-day week. The magazine became fortnightly, lost circulation and eventually folded.

Alan was a long-time supporter of what was then the Sports Writers’ Association, serving as honorary secretary after Doug Gardner’s death. He also served as the Association’s chairman.

After a spell on the Evening News, he joined Reg Hayters’ Sports Agency before retiring down to Cheltenham. After the death of his wife Pat he spent his last few years at the Journalists’ Homes in Dorking, where he was the first resident of the new Pickering House.

He leaves a daughter Sara, son-in-law Garry and three grandchildren, Ben, John and Caitlin.

A private funeral will be held in Cheltenham, followed by two celebrations of Alan’s life, the first at 4pm on Tuesday, February 21 at Pickering House, Ridgeway Road, Dorking RH4 3AY and the second at midday on Wednesday, February 22 at Malden Golf Club, off Traps Lane, New Malden KT3 4RS, where Sara would like to meet his old friends.

One thought on “Alan Hughes, Fleet Street stalwart, has died

  1. I never knew Alan Hughes, or even met him. But he has been a companion through two phases of my life.

    As a schoolboy in the late ’60s and early ’70s I was one of the few in our playground who sat on the fence in the old-school-Goal versus new-and-glossy Shoot! argument by buying both. Shoot! was great if you wanted to know who Peter Simpson would most like to meet, but Goal always seemed more willing to tackle issues.

    I couldn’t have told you who the Shoot! editor was but the face and name of Alan Hughes was there as a stern-faced presence on the opening pages of Goal every week. He looked like someone who would hand out lines if he caught you skipping any pages.

    In later life, when I was old enough to know better, I re-collected every issue of Goal via programme dealers and eBay merchants. Not only do I now have every copy printed during the magazine’s six years but, needing to purchase someone’s half-collection just to get the last two copies I required, I have about 130 spares sitting in my loft (if anyone’s interested).

    They have provided a connection to a treasured past but, as I keep telling my wife, they have been a valuable reference source over the past decade or so as I have written various football books based around that period.

    Alan Hughes has continued to cast his critical eye over such research from his perch on Page 3, and – despite today’s sad news – I look forward to his companionship for many years to come.

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