Hughes’ memoirs are littered with a common theme, and that common theme is the joy he has from the game of football. Hughes both enjoyed the game in a playing capacity in his village of Rhosllanerchrugog, we are fortunate enough to read and enjoy Hughes’ exciting trip to Wembley Stadium for the first FA Cup final held at the stadium in 1923. It would appear that his school, Ruabon Grammar, focused their sporting education around football. Even in their own free time during school hours Hughes discusses how the pupils would ‘play ever dinner hour.’ (47) The game of football works hand in hand with working class culture, the game is shaped by working class culture and working class society and Hughes later in his memoirs as the sport acted as an activity for members of the community to look forward to.
Acknowledging his love of football does not come without him mentioning some of his footballing heroes, Hughes is inspired by the on of the world’s first football superstars, Billy Meredith, a local of the welsh town of Chrirk, Hughes describes him as ‘the famous Manchester United.’ (80) Sourcing the National Football Museum archives, Meredith went on to play forty-eight games for Wales and scoring a total of eleven goals as well as ‘contributing to the creation of what is now the Professional Footballer’s Association’ Hughes also recognises his other heroes such as ‘Pele, Dixie Dean, Brian Clough, Tommy Lawton, Billie Walker and Bobbie Charlton.’ (81) What is interesting about this quote is that the likes of Pele and Bobbie Charlton that he mentions, did not start their careers until the late 1950’s which implies that he Hughes is writing his document in complete retrospect.
His retrospective narration, works to his advantage with his brilliant ability of storytelling. One of the tales that shapes the narrative and sums up a lot about working class culture and how Hughes went about living his life. What shapes the tale is the part he played in history by attending the first FA Cup Final held at Wembley in 1923 between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United. Held on April 30 1923 the Final became known as the ‘white horse’ final for its near disastrous scenes, using the Guardian Research departments archives the have provided the newspaper from the following day titled ‘Storming the Stadium.’ According to the Guardian it is believed that almost 200,000 people entered the stadium. With twelve mounted police there to ‘prevent a disaster’ The video is a brilliant example of the huge crowds that attended the match, and brings to life Hughes’ words of his vivid descriptions of the cup final ‘a section spilled on to the field and they were drafted back by the police, mounted on a superb white horse.’ (92) Despite the main event being entertaining enough, Hughes’ long journey to Wembley is magnificently engaging, Hughes tells how the trip was organises by Jack Ellis, Hughes describes his excitement of the day waiting for the rest of the travelling party ‘had they no sense of expectation, of thrill in their veins.’ (88) The travelling party took a detour around London, having a ‘quick look at Trafalgar square and Nelson’ (90) Before moving on to ‘Buckingham Palace to see the guard.’ (90)
Eventually making their way to the stadium Hughes describes walking up the famous Wembley Way and describes the crowds as ‘thick and advancing in solid phalanxes’ (90) Hughes remembers ‘little’ about the match which obviously implies that he had no affinity with either side in terms of support, especially because neither team are within his demographic area, but also it comes across as though Hughes was so took in by the occasion, so much had happened in one day, it must have felt like such a surreal experience for someone from a small mining village in North Wales.
‘30th April 1923: Storming The Stadium’ The Guardian Research Department. 23rd May 2011
‘Billy Meredith.’ Nationalfootballmuseum.org. n.d Web Accessed 4TH April 2019.
G. Clifton Hughes. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4 2.426
Wembley FA Cup Final 1923. Brirish Pathe. Youtube, 2014.