My Norwich City Story #4: Andrew Hughes – in his own words
- Credit: Archant
Watch and read the fourth edition of our EXCLUSIVE Canaries documentary series My Norwich City Story, as figures from the club’s past tell their Canaries tale. Next up: former midfielder Andrew Hughes – in his own words.
- Andrew Hughes (2005-07: 79 appearances, 2 goals)
- In the beginning…
Things were fine at Reading. It was just a normal pre-season. I'd finished the last season playing something like 46 games, various positions. Left-back, right-back, centre-mid - but I'd never really nailed down a position. There was a bit of a nickname: Polyfiller - fill any gap! But I thought Steve Coppell was a wonderful man, a wonderful gentleman and a real top manager.
I just heard a bit of interest off Norwich and my agent contacted me, said Norwich were interested. I wasn't looking to move as I still had a year left and Reading had offered me a new deal. But then obviously Reading accepted an offer and I just went down to Norwich and spoke to the manager, met a few players, and that's how it came about.
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I wasn't looking to leave Reading because I had been there through quite a successful period. I had got better as a player. I wasn't an amazing player - I never was - but I certainly developed there more and maybe that's what caught Norwich's eye.
The times we'd played against Norwich previous in the league campaign, they had got promoted - and they were obviously looking to get back into the Premier League again. And they were looking to bring a squad together to do that, as well as keep the ones from last year.
- 1 Missing man found by off-duty police officer
- 2 £5m roadworks on A47 cause delays - and months more to come
- 3 Man jailed for 24 years for raping and sexually assaulting two girls
- 4 Three Norfolk hotels named among the best for romance in the UK
- 5 Norfolk campsite voted third best in UK
- 6 Man charged after cannabis factory and 300 plants found above pizza takeaway
- 7 Road cleared after three-vehicle collision on A47
- 8 Early hours arrests as part of 'ongoing police investigation'
- 9 Village rounds on council over 'disgraceful' road resurfacing that covered cycle lanes and blocked drains
- 10 Pub boss struggling to recruit ahead of lockdown lifting
I thought: wow, big club. Big names. I knew Flem (Craig Fleming) because I used to clean his boots when I was at Oldham when I was a YTS (Youth Training Scheme). And he was the same then as he was there. Still big-time! But I knew Flem and obviously the quality that was there with Dean Ashton, Darren Huckerby, Youssef Safri, Robert Green. Every time I played there it was a wonderful place to play, sold out every week, fans were loyal.
They're different fans in Norwich. You get different fans all over the country and Norwich are different. They're more family and it's a big occasion going to the football all together. They've got a real camaraderie together and it's a beautiful place to live. Me and my wife loved it down there.
So I just thought big club, Premier League, looking to get back and maybe my time had come to an end at Reading.
I met Flem in Sainsbury's car park and he had a red Mercedes convertible pulled up. He thought he was John Travolta, roof down with this big flashy watch on, giving it the big one saying, 'I'm the captain of Norwich; yeah, come to Norwich' - and I was just there with my wife; met him in the car park.
What we'd did was we actually drove down on the Sunday just to see how far it was, because my wife had to work out where she was working and how to get there and back. So the first journey wasn't actually to meet the manager - it was to see how far it was, so we went there and back in a day! That was the first time I went there.
Then you obviously have to wait for official permission to go back and have the talks, and I think Norwich were away on a trip at the time because I remember Nigel (Worthington) and Dougie (Livermore) texting me saying, 'we're landing, we're flying back' and I think at the time they were signing Jurgen Colin as well.
So the first drive was to see how far it was, and for Flem to tell me how good the city was in a red convertible.
Nigel and Dougie couldn't have been more positive. They'd been wonderfully successful there and it was all about what they want to do, where they want to get back. There were standards that they wanted to keep in the dressing room and they wanted all the players to adhere to that and be around it.
The goal was to get back into the Premier League as quick as they could, and that was the idea. Unfortunately it didn't happen and it didn't start so great, but the first meeting was brilliant. They told me their idea. They wanted me to play midfield, and I was like - great. I don't want to be a right winger or a left winger, a left-back, a right-back. He said he wanted someone in there with a bit of energy because they had Safri's quality and people like Simon Charlton's quality at the time, so you could arguably say I knew my role. I wasn't an unbelievable player that was going to find passes and pick passes. I was more of a player that was wanting to put energy on to the team and just try to encourage and get the best out of others.
The fee? A lot of people probably think it was far too much! At the time, yeah it sounded a lot of money. All these rumours about you getting some of the fee is absolute rubbish, so I don't know where that all went. But yeah, £500,000 was the fee, the deal was done and it was good.
I think something had happened, a player had left Norwich and they had made money on it. And it was like, just use that for Hughesy. And then I was there, done and dusted.
It was me and my wife. We lived in Reading and she worked in Winkfield, Ascot in a bank. I literally came home and I said we're going to Norwich. She was like, right… And then I left. I went to Dunston Hall, I was in there and she handed her notice in. For the first few months she had to work her notice, and then we found a lovely house to rent in Mulbarton round the corner from Darren Ward - I played with Wardy at Notts County, so he was able to speak to a neighbour and I got a deal for cash on a monthly rent on a brand new place in Mulbarton. All those new houses.
And then my wife moved down and she applied for jobs. She has always worked, my wife. She's a special needs teacher now so she's an incredible person. She's fully supported me - and she got a job at the local council, just near the roundabout on the way to Carrow Road. It was fairly simple. We didn't have children at the time and it was just, let's get up and go.
My signing press conference was the first time where I felt, I'm at a big club here. It was a proper press conference. It wasn't like when I went to Reading and I was in a little room and it was the (club's) website. This had all the posh wall and Lotus signs behind, and I thought I'm at a big club here. I remember that; it was good.
It was with Neil Doncaster and he was all right. He didn't stay long - he went off to Scotland. He was very straight down the line. Very tick boxes, cross boxes, done.
- Making an impression
The first day in training is nerve-wracking and the other side of it brings out a bit of cockiness and edginess in you - because you feel like you're there because you deserve to be there. When you get brought up as a YTS player, you're always looked at as the young lad - until you make a move to another team, and then you become a senior pro.
But I was walking into a dressing room with big players, so I felt I just had to be positive. It didn't bother me who they were and I became great friends with a lot of them. A lot of funny characters, a lot of funny stories. A lot of good days, bad days, arguments - but that's what football is about.
A lot of learning as well. I watched how other top players at the time behaved. I tried to adhere to them and learn off them. Like Greeny (Rob Green) with his Olympic lifting that no one ever saw, with his silly shoes on and his silly gym gloves. Hucks with 5,000 sit-ups a day and one meal a week probably - he's the best athlete I've ever seen. Adam Drury's professionalism, Paul McVeigh, Saf… You saw them all so you took a lot from them.
But it was nerve-wracking. You came in and saw the canteen, the training pitches and you just get into it. Players are great. Players make you feel welcome because you are there for a good reason.
I think it was in the lead up to a friendly. We were playing Colchester and it was just a five-a-side in training - and I do remember Dean Ashton. I didn't realise how good he was until he kicked a ball. The technique of someone rolling a ball to you and driving it front-on is one of the hardest techniques you will ever see or ever attempt to do. I've probably got banana foot and kick it in the stand, but someone rolled Dean a ball and he hit it like I've never seen anyone hit a ball - and it made this sound. It went in the top corner and I just turned around and looked at a few players. They were all… They obviously knew it and had played with him, but I knew then that he was special and he would go bigger.
We wanted to get on a good start. I think we had three home games in a row; something had been rearranged with Coventry and the place was buzzing. I remember getting to the game early. I always liked to get to the game early, park up. The fans were everywhere. I was excited - but I was excited to try to do well and do well for the fans. I wanted to go out there and you want people to like you. You want your efforts to be appreciated and you have the nerves of going out and doing well, and then you have the pressure of it being such a big club and winning games.
The first three games didn't go well at all, and then you got the pressure of the local press and what the club was really about. From then, everything didn't really get going. I think the first win we got (against Plymouth) it was like… [blows out cheeks] I can't remember the game but it was a tough start. It wasn't ideal.
Maybe the other players like Flem and Hucks, Ads (Drury) - maybe they might have sensed there was something different from last year but I didn't know if there was anything different. Maybe it was a bad start? I'd been at clubs that had bad starts. But on the other hand, I looked over and Reading were top of the league! They had a great start and they weren't expected to do well - and we all know that season, Reading went straight up.
But you can't think about that and live by regrets. I don't regret anything because there are plenty of reasons why Norwich was an amazing place. It's where me and my wife started our family basically, and there was a long journey with that. I'm going off there thinking about something else, aren't I? But it wasn't a good start and you knew by then the pressure was building.
Plus I wasn't playing well. I wasn't… Players when they come off the pitch, know when they haven't played well and I wasn't playing to the standard that I had been at with Reading, and I couldn't figure it out - whether it was because I'd had a little injury pre-season, or it was the style of play or the system. But I wasn't as what I knew I could be, and maybe there were a few other players as well in the team that weren't at it.
Sometimes players aren't honest enough. I was honest enough. I knew my level. I knew when I was good or when I was bad. But I always gave as much energy and tried to appreciate the fans, because at the end of the day they paid the wages.
- Fire and Ashton
I was only aware of the criticism when they shouted at you. Something that my values as a person growing up, whether or not fans appreciate it, whether I played bad or good, whether people liked me or not - I'd always front people up. That's me.
There were times, I remember, I think we got bashed by Luton. I think Greeny tripped into the net and scored a goal - and I clapped the fans after. They were amazing. The followed us everywhere. It's a big club. But if I've had a bad game, I'll still clap the fans because they've made the effort to pay to come and watch, and sometimes that season it was awful. I was awful.
But I didn't mean to step out on the pitch to be a bad player. No footballer goes on the pitch to think, I'm going to be rubbish today. Sometimes you just have one of those days.
Maybe people thought of me not as good as what I was anticipated to be. I'm not going to apologise for that because that's not my fault, but I'll never apologise for clapping the fans and if fans started to, I don't know, take the mick out of me for clapping them then shame on them really - because I was actually thanking them for their efforts and the time that they came to watch us or pay for tickets.
I'd never shirk away from clapping a fan, even if one fan looked at me and gave me a clap back then I'd appreciate it - and if someone didn't and gave me the V, I'd take it on board.
I'd played under Pards (Alan Pardew) at Reading and he'd asked me about him (Dean Ashton). So I'm not going to turn around and say, don't touch him. I said he's probably one of the best strikers I've played with - for everything: hold-up play, great lad in the dressing room. I said he's top - why, are you after him? And he said yes - so I told him it was going to cost him a lot.
But Deano was a funny guy. He'd have the biggest pre-match meal on a Friday and he'd have his little routines. He'd obviously had a lot of injuries, this and that. But what a lovely guy. A lovely, lovely man. It's a shame he never really got to do what he could because I think he would have gone on to be one of the best. His hold-up play and link-up play…
But he deserved his move to West Ham at the end of the day. If a big club like West Ham comes in and they're in the Premier League - and Norwich aren't… Maybe if we'd been top six, top five, it might have been no, let's hang on to him and see what happens. But it wasn't. It wasn't meant to be and he made the move.
We replaced him with Earnie (Robert Earnshaw) and you're thinking, wow - goalscorer. But a different goalscorer because we had Peter Thorne as well, who was more of a hold-up man and a squad player. So Earnie came and Earnie wasn't Dean. But ultimately it was where we were and the money. That's football.
There will be times this year with Norwich's team now and with Daniel (Farke). There are players in there in my eyes that are worth £30m-£40m. It's football. Players move on, players come and go - but you can't knock Dean's ambition for wanting to play Premier League.
Dean wasn't like that (issues over him not playing as his move got closer). He was just a northerner, from Crewe. Straight down there. What's happening Dean - are you going today? 'Don't know'. All right… That was it. It wasn't like yeah, no. He was just straight down the line and never changed. Never changed. Top, top player.
- Failing to make the grade
There were loads of different little things throughout that season, like when Nigel made me captain. I was completely honoured. I was a positive character and I tried to get the best out of everyone - but it was funny because I think Flem got dropped for a game and then Nigel said he'd make me captain for the night, and it was a wonderful honour.
No one can take that away from me, that I captained Norwich - and I captained a winning team in the derby away at Ipswich, which was a big thing for me. Hucks was on the bench that day and he came on and scored, but listen - we won the game and I was captain for that one game, for a derby win, so it was a big thing for me.
You could see in the dressing room players that are captains, and not captains - you can see it a mile off now. You can see it in 16, 17-year-olds now. Who's a captain, who's a leader. Other people lead off the pitch, just quiet leaders like Aaron Mooy who I've been coaching the last year at Huddersfield. He doesn't say a word but he's a quiet leader. Then you've got people like Jonathan Hogg who roar 'come on', and all the leaders like that.
I look at Norwich's squad now and you've got leaders that aren't playing like Grant Hanley. Massive leader. Massive influence off the pitch. So everyone has different influences and different characters. Kenny McLean, leader. Teemu Pukki might not be vocal but he leads from the front.
So it was an honour for me to be named captain - but there was no awkwardness. I just felt like, wow. It was a job and maybe Nigel was giving that to me to maybe make me try to lift my game as well. Maybe he thought if I give him this it will help him become a bit better. Sometimes managers do that.
The derby at Portman Road that I captained was brilliant. Just seeing the fans after and to win there was great. I remember one of the derbies at home actually, because I ended up moving around didn't I? I started playing right wing, left wing, and I remember I started playing left-back and right-back in one of the games. And I remember I smashed Gary Roberts, their left-winger, good player, and I remember I loved that game. I enjoyed it. The fans were good and I made some good tackles in that game.
But you can see how much it means to the fans. You even see it now. Any derby game, it's what it's about. It's not about performing - it's about doing whatever it takes to win. But they are great games to plan in, especially that game. It's a big one.
- The clown story
I think the fact was go away, really look at yourselves, rethink what you could have done better - because everyone could have done something better - and come back with a positive mind set for pre-season. That was it. It was really, batten the hatches. It's been a poor season, everyone deserved the criticism they got. We lost a few players - but you have to deal with things like that in football.
You have to go away, reevaluate, look at yourself - I certainly looked at myself because I wasn't good enough, and I don't like feeling like that. You don't like coming home thinking, phwoar - I've not been good that season. So I tried to do things different. Shall I do a different off-season training programme? I went away and thought about it and thought right, let's get our heads around it for next season and see how it starts.
Nigel was a good character. I remember he used to come in and do his speeches, have a little rant, and he'd have his thumb like this and bang the table - and I'd think, how he's not breaking his finger banging his table that hard, I don't know.
I remember one game where I did something in it and after the game he called me a clown, and I started laughing. 'Who do you think you are, a clown?' So I thought, I'll show you. The day after, I went down to a fancy dress shop and got a clown's outfit and a bucket and all the fake confetti in. I came in and Paul McVeigh was sat next to me and asked what I was doing - I said we're having a meeting aren't we, and I'm going to walk in a minute late.
So I walked in a minute late in my clown's outfit. I don't think Nigel and Dougie really knew my banter; really knew what was happening. I said, 'So I'm a clown am I?' I got the bucket and one, two, three - threw the confetti over them. Obviously the boys absolutely loved it - but probably that was the end of me! Hucks, Paul McVeigh, Ads and everyone loved it but… I was trying to just be funny. That was me. He called me a clown so I thought I'd wear a clown's outfit.
Maybe Nigel's perception of me was that I didn't do what I was asked to do for him, which is fine. There were times he'd say to me if I wanted to find another club, I could go - and at first it shocks you because you don't know whether he's doing it to go right, liven up or else you will go, or you can actually go.
But my reaction was no - I'm here to play and I want to get better. My wife has moved here, I've moved here. I've given everything to move here, so I want to stay and do the best I can. And that was it. He was like, right - OK. That's fine. And sometimes I found myself on the bench or involved, or whatever. A few games I had a bad injury.
Nigel was good. He is what he is. He's a successful manager. He has been successful so no one can ever take that away from him. But that's what managers do. Sometimes players aren't putting food on the table, and I don't think I was actually performing the whole time I was there. I maybe had one or two good games but I was never an eight out of 10 every week, and that did hurt me because I really wanted to do well for Norwich. It's a great place to play football and a good city.
- One altercation and a sacking
You always get whispers and the feeling in the dressing room when a manager is struggling because they do things different. Nigel used to do his run around the outside of the training ground at Colney… Sometimes managers behave different when they're struggling. I've seen it playing for other managers and obviously working with other managers and coaches. They try to just do things different to get a reaction.
You sensed something was wrong, things weren't going well, the style of football wasn't winning football - but was that down to Nigel? Maybe. Was that down to players? Maybe. There's a culmination of plenty of things that might have needed changing. Certainly you felt the pressure, but that's the pressure of playing for a big club - and that's the pressure Nigel took on managing a big club.
It was a shame but sometimes that's what football clubs have to do. They have to put it in the press (the club made a statement giving Worthington two games to improve performances) to maybe lift the manager, and that was maybe Norwich's choice.
I can't answer that, honestly (losing the first of those two games 4-1 at Carrow Road). We just wanted to go out, do our job and beat Burnley. I was on the bench that game and it was a heavy defeat.
I remember I came on, not even for long, and I was just fuming that we'd got beat and the fans were saying stuff about me, and a certain fan - and I shouldn't have done it, but I reacted. I jumped in the crowd and… He was saying 'it's your fault, your fault' - and I was like, how is it my fault ? I'm a sub! Is this whole season my fault? Is it my fault we're in this - or is it everyone's fault?
I just took it personally. Obviously the fan was a loyal fan that had been paying for years to come, so I've got no hard feelings about it. He's a passionate fan and I'm a passionate player. I take pride in my performances and I knew that I hadn't been good enough, and maybe that had just tipped me over the edge. [laughs]
Do you regret things in football? No I don't regret it. I'm sure the gentleman doesn't regret saying what he said, because he'd earned the right to say it. Players that get upset at what fans say, you've got to let fans say what they want because they deserve it.
So there we are. I jumped in the crowd. There was a bit of trouble. A bit of this and that. Nothing really happened. And then we came in after and it was a weird atmosphere. I was angry from my reaction coming on as a sub because maybe I wanted to start and do better, show everyone what I could do. But when you're a sub and come on, you want to think you can do something straight away - and ultimately the game had gone anyway. We were 3-1 down and it wasn't like I was going to come on and change the game. I wasn't like super Darren Huckerby and Dean Ashton in one.
I think the police came and saw me and asked if I wanted to report anything or what he said, and I said I just can't be bothered. Let bygones be bygones. I don't know if it was a big thing or not, because there was no contact or anything. People pulled me back, pulled him back and that was it. If I saw him today I'd probably shake his hand and we'd have a laugh about it! He might have the same season ticket, because they're loyal those Norwich fans aren't they. So he's probably there. But I've been back plenty of times with other teams, as a player and as a coach, and everything's been fine.
That's the first thing the fans would think of? At least they'd remember me for something! Maybe now they'll read this they will learn the clown jokes and the other things and stories that went on that no one saw behind the scenes. But if they remember me of that, they remember me for that. There's nothing I can do about it.
I was just disappointed in me as a player. Disappointed in all the stuff that had gone on with Nigel. Maybe he didn't deserve all that. Angry we'd got beat. The fans were angry. It happens. It goes on.
I can't remember when I last saw him. It wasn't long after that he joined Leicester, and we played them. I played left-back that game because I remember it and seeing him on the side. But I've not really spoken to Nigel since that all happened really, no.
I have spoken to Dougie now and then though. He works as an agent so I see Dougie Livermore all the time. He's always asking me about players and it's on the other side now, with me being a coach - can you do this and that? And I'm like, all right Dougie? [smiles] But what a good guy he was.
- Peter the Pointer to the door
Granty (Peter Grant) was Pards' assistant at West Ham so he probably knew me from Pards. I knew he was a coach and obviously Granty came in (as Worthington's replacement) and coached. Absolutely lovely man. Worked probably too hard. Tried to do everything. Probably over-coached. But he had such a big heart and big energy… It just didn't really work out for him because he left. I left while he was in the next pre-season.
The bits he was there for when I was there, I gave everything and there were some good days. I remember once, he sub-subbed me. I was fuming with him. He brought me on in a game and then they got a man sent off, and then I got brought off - and I thought, how do I react to this? Do I fume down the tunnel? Because I was fuming. It's one of the biggest things as a player, to get sub-subbed. And I thought no, stay calm. Be a bigger man than him. And then the next day in training he pulled me and apologised to me - and I just told him how it was then.
It was hard for him. He had to make a decision in that game to win the game and ultimately now as a coach, if I have to put someone on and then bring them off if they have a man sent off to win the game, I'd have done the same. So looking at it from a player, you're selfish - but as a coach you have to understand he wanted to probably bring someone on against 10 men that had pace, power and wasn't going to track back or tackle. He wanted someone that was going to break lines and go forward. So you see both sides of it now as you're older.
I wouldn't say he had an aura about him. He's not had another chance at being a manager, so he's been a coach - so you sort of knew he was a coach. Whereas when a manager walks in, you know a manager's in the room. I've worked with managers where the manager walks in the room and the room goes silent.
But I still speak to Granty now. He's a highly qualified coach, incredibly intelligent. I think he still lives in Norfolk. He was a good man. He just felt I would be better going elsewhere.
I remember at the time, pre-season actually with big Dion (Dublin), there was a bit of banter about players and I had a bit of banter with Granty and I said, why do you need any other players when I can play anywhere? Just started having a laugh. But I knew it was coming - not to an end, because I didn't know Leeds were interested, but I knew I would be struggling to get on the bench and things like that. As a player, the last thing I wanted to do was be just there, as literally no one. I wasn't that guy. I wanted to be a footballer that was involved every weekend, and he wasn't able to guarantee me that.
I had a phone call off Dennis Wise. He rung me up and said hello Hughesy… We've agreed a fee for Leeds with Norwich. Do you fancy it? And I just said yes straight away. I knew it was dropping a division. Probably I knew deep down League One was my level. I looked at Leeds. They were (on) -15 (points) and I got called the maddest footballer in Britain, because I was the first person to sign for Leeds (after their points deduction). But I remember being from Manchester and driving past Elland Road, just seeing it and thinking wow - what a club.
And that was it. I went yeah, no problem. I spoke to Hucks and told him I was off to Leeds, and said he had a place in Harrogate - stay in it. So I got Hucks' flat, went straight there - his holiday home! One of many. I paid him rent and I lived in his flat. So I was putting money in Huckerby's pockets, shall I say, for letting me live in his flat in Harrogate.
So that's how it ended. It was that quick. Was I upset that my time ended at Norwich? For the friends I'd made there, for my wife working there, for the place it is, for the people that are there now… When I go back people are so polite to me, even though I wasn't a good player - every time I've gone back there as a player or as a coach. So there was no animosity whatsoever. I'm incredibly thankful for my time at Norwich. Even though it didn't go well, I really am incredibly thankful.
A few were there so it was just a quick get your boots and go. I'm not one for goodbyes. It's in and out and away we go, on to the next chapter. Pack up the house. My wife had to say goodbye to her friends and her job, which was quite hard. We've been in North Yorkshire ever since, and I've travelled around playing, finishing playing and obviously coaching now.
- Tying up the loose ends
Everything was totally honest about Norwich. There was never anything where I wanted to leave before (I left). I never wanted to leave. But you ultimately have to go because you know you're not good enough, and I had to drop a level to League One.
So there was none of that and then eventually Norwich actually came down to League One, I remember. I remember the games that season with Paul Lambert and then obviously they won the league and we had all the shenanigans at Leeds. But there was never a nearly end early for me at Norwich. It was how it was.
My favourite moment or memory? Obviously signing for the club, captaining the club, scoring at Elland Road, living in the city - there were loads of memories. But I would say being captain: it's a big honour. No fan can take it away from me. I might not have been first choice but to have that honour, it does stick with me and to win in a game away at Ipswich and be a captain, it's a big part of my football journey and definitely something I'll treasure. Definitely something I'll treasure.
Who do I miss? Adam Drury was my room-mate. I miss Adam. I miss Hucks because in training, you would always try to get to his level and beat him - and he would make you push it. I miss Dion Dublin. I miss Thorney. You miss the people around Norwich. Funny people! Good sense of humour.
I miss Yarmouth, going to the races and the dogs. Nipping over to Holkham. I used to love the beach there. Nip down to Newmarket and watch the horses there. There is plenty of stuff to miss about Norwich. Center Parcs near it. There's a good zoo. Yeah, I miss Norwich. When I go back there I love it. I like going round the shopping centre and all that.
I miss the area. Actually when I went back a few weeks ago and watched the game that you got promoted (Blackburn at Carrow Road), I was sat next to Delia and had a good bit of banter with Delia… I remember now! After a player of the year do, Delia got a flat tyre and her chauffeur couldn't fix the flat tyre outside - so I jacked the car up and fixed the Jag. So there's a story you didn't know - that I saved Delia! [laughs]
My Norwich City regret? It's a good question - never ever getting to the level that I wanted to get to, perform for the fans and ultimately be respected. I don't know if the fans respect me now. Maybe they might do after watching this, to actually know that I was honest enough to myself.
But it was my biggest regret that I never performed to the level that I should have got to. I felt that going to Norwich, I could perform at a level and went to it - but maybe my form went down and other players' form didn't… But that's definitely it. There was never a regret moving there. Even though Reading got promoted that year, I never regretted it. I loved my time at Norwich. But ultimately as an apology, my performances were far too below par.
I think throughout your journey you go to clubs and you always have amazing times and low times. And in football there are a lot more lows than highs. Was the grass greener (after Norwich)? No. I went to Leeds and did well at Leeds. I felt I did really well there. The fans took to me in a tough season. So no, the question really doesn't commit to me - I'm never ever going to have a bad word to say about Norwich.
Whether people like me or dislike me, it was an honour. Players sometimes hate this and hate that. I never hated anything. It was a fantastic club, amazing people, amazing fans. I just didn't perform.
My message to the Norwich City fans? Probably that! Do I apologise for coming to you, to Norwich, for £500,000? No - it's not my fault that was how much I was. Do I apologise for my performances? No - because I don't go out to play bad or do whatever. I just didn't get to the level that I was at. I wasn't good enough for you and ultimately that's why I probably dropped to League One - because I'm an honest guy. I'm not a liar. I wasn't good enough.
I thought there were certain games I was OK. I was definitely a team player. I wasn't an individual. I couldn't do things. But that's the message to the fans.
If I got people angry or like you said, for clapping them, then I don't get that. I was genuinely thanking people that made the effort to watch me because I was poor. [laughs] I didn't mean to be an average player. But ultimately I wasn't good enough for those two years.
I never had one Norwich fan say a bad thing to me. They couldn't have been nicer. I used to warm up and the fans would say, all right Hughesy? And I'd have a bit of banter with them in the bottom corner, this and that.
I'm really, really pleased the success they've had over the last 10-11 years since I left the club, or however long it's been. Wonderful people there, Delia and the owners, the coaches, the players, the young players that are coming through, the players that have come through, the players that have gone and been and left.
I think if you turn round and get angry with things like that… You only get one go on this planet - I'm not angry with anybody. I think I'm more disappointed with that I didn't do as well as what I wanted to do for the fans, because it was such a big club and honour.
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