A classic interview from 1964 between Blackpool and England star and part time editor and journalist Jimmy Armfield and a young seventeen year old full back born in Barrow-in-Furness who's father played for the British Lions Rugby Union side as well as appearing in the other code for Barrow, who has just completed his first year as a professional footballer with Blackpool FC. His name, a certain Emlyn Hughes. Thanks to the superb site, Football Nostalgia
, for bringing this interview to everyone's attention and transcribing it.
Armfield: I suppose Emlyn, that there is a simple explanation as to why you chose soccer when you had a rugby father?
Hughes: Yes, just the simple fact that I played soccer at school, got into the Barrow schoolboys and North Lancashire schoolboys teams. Somehow I just wanted to be a soccer player.
Armfield: Were you advised by people that professional football was a risky job?
Hughes: Oh yes, but my father owns a tarmacadam business, he gave me every encouragement to try my luck as a player on the understanding that if I failed I could work for him and learn the business. This gave me added confidence, of course, for I know that it is important to have some security to fall back on if the gamble in football doesn't come off.
Armfield: How is it that you became a Blackpool player instead of, say, Barrow or Birmingham or Preston who have big scouting connections with your part of the country?
Hughes: Well as you know, Jim, our manager, Mr. Ronnie Suart, comes from Barrow and my father wrote to him. I had offers to go to Birmingham and Preston for trials, but Blackpool has always been the club for me.
Armfield: I believe you had some early disappointment when you first came to Blackpool?
Hughes: Yes I did! First they say I was too young and too small and advised me to come back again in another year. I was then only just 16.
Armfield: So you went back after a year?
Hughes: That's right and even then it was a struggle for I had three trials with Blackpool before they agreed to take me on as a part timer. Mr. Suart advised me that it was taking a chance and warned me that after two years I might not have improved sufficiently. He was very fair about it, but when he gave me the chance I said 'Yes' quicker then a girl does to a marriage proposal!
Armfield: Now to be honest, Emlyn, did you think soccer would be an easy job, and if so do you still think so?
Hughes: I think it is easy in the fact you have plenty of spare time. But I realise that to succeed against tremendous competition from the other lads that you have got to be dedicated to the job of being very fit and that means cutting out a lot of pleasures that a lad normally has when he starts work.
Armfield: What things do you go without for instance?
Hughes: Well, I am keen on dancing, but I never go after Wednesdays each week. Early nights are part of the routine I have accepted and my whole life seems to be bound up in trying to be superbly fit for the game on Saturday.
Armfield: What do you do with yourself away from the ground and how do you fill in that spare time?
Hughes: I go back to the ground every afternoon to try and cure one of my weaknesses. That is lack of pace, for in the modern soccer game today I know that a full back must be able to keep up with a fast winger, and now that I have grown and am no longer too small I have to work hard doing sprinting with spikes and so on to try and get speed over the first ten yards and quickness on the turn. When I do relax I like to go out with other players for a game of snooker. I like to be with players all the time for we can talk about football. I know you have got to 'live' this game to really succeed.
Armfield: How else do you get advice on improving yourself?
Hughes: There is plenty of coaching at the club from the staff and yourself of course. But I like to study positional play in the big matches and learn by watching some of the best players. There is one thing about this job. There is plenty of advice if you want it and plenty of examples of how to play football properly by just studying the top men in action.
Armfield comments: This boy, Emlyn Hughes, is a first class example of how all young lads should set about learning the game at professional level. In the first place he has determination, like going back a year after they said he was too small. Now he is bigger than I am and he is a strong boy showing great promise. He knows that there is a big difference between being a schoolboy star and playing professionally and is willing to learn from every source of advice open to him. He really lives for football and doesn't complain about the rigid self-discipline he has had to impose upon himself in his private life away from the ground. All the best players have started like that, and, most important, have kept it up all their playing days. To get to the top you cannot do the job half-heartedly.