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Everton Past Player Profile
STEPHEN HUGHES
Left Midfeld

Stephen Hughes  FACTS
Born Wokingham, 18 September 1976
Height 6 ft - 0 in (1.83 m)
Joined Everton from Arsenal in March 2000 (£500,000*)
Signed by Walter Smith
Debut v Chelsea (a), 11 March 2000
Left Everton to join Watford in July 2001 (Free)
Finalé v Ipswich Town (a), 24 February 2001
Nicknames Hughesy, Stevie, Yozzer
Honours FA Youth Cup '94; Premier League '98; Charity Shield '98
 PREVIOUS CAREER
   Seasons  Club  Apps  Gls
1994-2000 Arsenal 22 (27) + 14 (14) 4 + 3
August 1999 Fulham (on loan) 4 1

*Fee rising up to £3M, depending on appearances

 STRENGTHS  WEAKNESSES
  • Classy
  • Physical strength and presence
  • Excellent shot
  • Shut out of First team footy
  • May have a troublesome attitude
  • Can't take Archie's battering
 BIOSKETCH
  
Despite being a member of the England U-21 squad, Stephen Hughes exemplifies the plight of promising young English players trying to make the grade in today's Premiership teams brimming with expensive foreign stars.  At Highbury, he was some way down the pecking order, behind the likes of Emmanuel Petit or Patrick Vieira.  As a result, he has not been a regular first-team choice for Arsenal, and opportunities have progressively receded over the few years in which he has tried to make a name for himself.  

A talented central and left-sided midfield player, he was viewed by Arséne Wenger as a valuable squad member but nothing more.  Although he has played more than 50 matches with Arsenal since winning the FA Youth Cup in 1994, the majority of his appearances have been from the substitutes' bench.  But he has made some particularly impressive contributions, scoring some key goals along the way.  Frustrated with his lack of first-team action, Hughes joined Fulham from Arsenal on a three month loan spell in August 1999. However, the highly rated midfielder left Fulham to return to Highbury after just four matches. 

Stephen had a disappointing 1999-2000 season with Arsenal: just three appearances – two as substitute.  After being mentioned as a possible England player in the problem left-sided berth, his move to Everton took him even further away from the England Manager's train of thought.  

The smart money says he has the ability to succeed at the highest level, and he hoped that opportunity would be granted with Everton.  But Evertonians wondered about the valuation of £3M for someone who is essentially a reserve player, compounded by niggling rumours about his attitude and temperament.  However, he was only 23 and, if his huge potential was to be fulfilled at Everton, he could have become a very valuable star of the future... Sadly, that was not to be. 

As is Walter Smith's way with most of his new signings, Stephen Hughes became an instant first-team choice, and played in all the remaining matches of season 1999-2000, settling in well – if slowly – and without quite setting the world of football alight.  But the lad showed enough intelligence, bright running, and sensible passing to be a convincing addition to the side.

Stephen Hughes's 2000-01 season began brightly, with some sensible performances in both the middle and the left side of midfield earning him some rave reviews.  But soon his good performances turned into barely reasonable performances – followed by less than reasonable.  He was dropped amidst rumours that his original transfer to Everton was more of an installment deal with an ultimate value of £3M, but Everton apparently did not want to make any more payments.  

There were also rumours about run-ins with Archie Knox, and his stout disciplinary regime, with a reported flare-up during half-time at Bradford.  He then revealed he was home sick and had apparently agreed a move to West Ham.  But the 'Appy 'Ammers manager Harry Redknap was sacked in June 2001, leaving Hughes's future in doubt – a future that seemed destined to lie away from Goodison.

Stephen Hughes was released at the end of June 2001, and was snapped up by Gianluca Vialli, the new Watford manager, where his undoubted footballing skills might be nurtured in a more supportive setting, unless the player's own demons prove to be the cause of his ultimate failure as a top-class footballer.

But life Watford proved to be little better than Everton.  No sooner was he over a groin operation than he was hospitalised with blood poisoning.  He was released due to lack of money, although Charlton invited him to train and offered him a short-term deal for the 2003-04 season, but he made no first-team appearances.  He joined Coventry in July 2004 and finally found some limited success in their Championship midfield, eventually captaining the side.

In a January 2005 feature in The Observer, his Everton career rated one brief paragraph:

A £500,000 move to Everton in 2000 seemed an ideal platform.  He began brightly, then cracked a kneecap.  His form suffered – pace was never his strongest suit – and he felt unsettled.  "I enjoyed my time there but it was difficult.  No one cared when I walked around London, but Liverpool was a goldfish bowl.  You'd be having dinner with your girlfriend and someone would come up and start going on about the 'red shite'."

  
 EVERTON CAREER STATISTICS
Season Squad
Number
League
Apps(sub)
League
Goals
Cup
Apps(sub)
Cup
Goals
TOTAL
Apps(sub)
TOTAL
Goals
1999-2k 18 11 (0) 1 0 (0) 0 11 (0) 1
2000-01

10

16 (2)

0

3 (1)

1

19 (3)

1

Totals: 27 (2) 1 3 (1) 1 30 (3) 2