Player name: Leslie Mark Hughes
Clubs: Manchester United, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Southampton, Blackburn Rovers
Position: Striker & Midfielder
Height: 5 ft 10 in
Leslie Mark Hughes OBEis a Welsh football coach and former professional footballer who is currently the manager of Bradford City. During his playing career he usually operated as a forward or midfielder. He had two spells at Manchester United, and also played for FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich, as well as the English top flight clubs Chelsea, Southampton, Everton and finally Blackburn Rovers. He made 72 appearances for Wales scoring 16 goals. He won a host of winners' medals during his playing career, including two Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and two UEFA Cup Winners' Cups. He also collected an FA Cup runners-up medal and a League Cup runners-up medal. Hughes was the first player to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year award twice, in 1989 and 1991. He retired from playing in 2002.
Born in Ruabon, Wrexham, Hughes joined Manchester United after leaving school in the summer of 1980, having been spotted by the team's North Wales talent scout Hugh Roberts. United youth coach Syd Owen was the man to spot Hughes’ potential as a striker. He did not make his first team debut for the Red Devils until his third year at the club – scoring in a 1–1 draw away to Oxford United in the League Cup, in the 1983–84 season.
Here, we present to you a truly remarkable piece of sporting memorabilia, none other than a pair of match worn & double hand signed boots the United legend, Mark Hughes himself. This exact pair were used by the Welshman during the 1984-85 season whilst playing for Manchester United in all competitions. With these boots being circa 40 years old now, the value of them is simply only going to rise, due to the history they contain within them from an era of football which has so much nostalgia for the vast majority of us footy fans, especially those of the Red Devils. Obtaining pieces such as this is no easy task, however it is all worth it when they are finally in hand and all of those memories come flooding back when taking a trip down nostalgia lane. Everything about this pair just simply oozes English First Division football in the 80's, from the robust look of the leather, to the elegant and simplistic design, build quality & aroma.
When Hughes made his United debut on the 30th of November 1983 against Oxford United in the League Cup, the club's forward partnership consisted of 27-year-old Irishman Frank Stapleton and 18-year-old Norman Whiteside from Northern Ireland, and breaking up that partnership would not be an easy challenge for Hughes. But Hughes quickly broke into the first team, partnering Frank Stapleton in attack while Norman Whiteside was switched to midfield to partner Ray Wilkins and stand in for the injury prone Remi Moses. The departure of Wilkins to Milan at the end of the season saw manager Ron Atkinson decide to stick to using Whiteside in the centre of midfield, enabling Hughes to keep his place in the first team ahead of new signing Alan Brazil, and he was rewarded handsomely as he scored 25 goals in 55 matches across all competitions as United finished 4th in the league & also achieved an FA Cup Final victory over Everton on the 18th May 1985 at Wembley Stadium with a 0-1 triumph in front of over 100,000 fans, one of the many matches that Hughes wore this exact pair in!
The Adidas Profi model was originally released by Adidas during the early 80's, and the production of the model continued into the 90's as the German brand released a slightly different variation of the model in the latter. The model itself originally appeared in a catalogue in 1983 for the general consumer. The model was produced in two differing countries of manufacture, with the majority of pairs featuring 'Made in West Germany' to the tongues, however there was also a production line in Austria of the Profi, which is where this pair were made - another point making this pair further unique. This pair feature the soleplate from the Adidas World Cup model, which even still to this day, is a commonly used modern classic - a timeless design. It is quite incredible to think just how far the football boot industry/market has come in such a short space of time, when we compare this to the modern day, there's a new model/colourway/design released by all of the top brands what seems to be every other week! Back then in the 80's, new models were few and far between. And even then, the designs never tended to be too drastically different from one another - regardless of brand.
Unlike what we see today where players at the elite level will change their boots so regularly, in some cases with almost every use, back in the 80's players had to make their boots last their full life span until they absolutely fell apart. And even then, they still had to use them! The luxury of sponsors sending them bespoke, hand made, boots every few weeks was not even an idea that existed, let alone it being put into practice.
The condition of the boots further ratifies my comments in the previous paragraph with regards to the amount of use boots got back in that era. Here, we can see a close up of the 3 Adidas stripes on the left & right boot respectively - it would be difficult to find a modern day pair of boots that have seen this amount of match use (beyond Toni Kroos that is, of course!). Fun fact - Mark Hughes used to have to actually apply paint to the stripes of his boots in order to keep them looking fresh and white, instead of just wearing a new pair. Upon close inspection, we can actually see above some remnants of said paint here and there. The above close up images should be a testament to just how good the build & leather quality were back then though, it's just insane to think that they are nearly 40 years old, and yet still look like they have some life left in them!
Hughes managed a further 18 goals in the 1985–86 season, where they led the league table until February having won their first ten league matches of the season, before a dismal second half of the season saw them slip into fourth place in the final table standings. That season saw Sparky score 17 goals in the Football League First Division – it would remain the highest goals tally in a league season throughout his career. In the summer of 1986, Hughes was sold to Barcelona for £2 million. United announced on 21 March 1986 that Hughes would be heading for Spain at the end of the season, but the transfer had been agreed many weeks earlier.
Above we can see the photographic evidence we have obtained of Mark Hughes signing this pair of his match worn Adidas Profi boots. This was organised by his son, whom relayed that Sparky said he has many amazing memories of playing in this pair! From soaking them in water regularly to make them fit better, to painting the stripes, to that FA Cup Final victory! An unwatermarked version of the above imaged will be supplied upon purchase.
Above we can see a clearer shot of the boots as an overall spectacle. What a pair! The metal studs here in the forefoot area we can see have actually changed colour to black over time, due to them being made from a different metal compound in comparison to the rear two studs on each sole. In terms of shape, as brands such as Adidas did not bespoke make their sponsored athlete's boots back then, they were all made to a generic fit, which is why Sparky had to soak them in water regularly in order to get the best fitment possible. They are crazy wide in shape in comparison to a modern day pair of boots, and the only real structure in the upper comes from the thickness and quality of that leather - no gimmicky stuff like you'd find on a new, modern pair of boots. Just good old fashioned thick leather!
In May 1988, Hughes returned to Manchester United, managed by Sir Alex Ferguson, for a then club record fee of £1.8 million. As he had done in his first spell at Old Trafford, Hughes proved to be a dynamic goal scorer and was a key player for the club over the next seven years. Alex Ferguson had been keen on re-signing Hughes for United soon after becoming manager in November 1986, but Hughes would have been liable for taxation on money earned playing overseas if he had returned to England before April 1988. In 1988–89, his first season back in England, United disappointed in the league and finished 11th after an erratic season. They had gone ten league matches without a win in the autumn but then went on a strong run after the turn of the new year to lift them to third place, only for a late season collapse to drag them down to mid-table. Hughes was voted PFA Player of the Year, the first Manchester United player to be credited with that award, in its 16th season. He was also United's joint top scorer that season, along with Brian McClair, on 16 goals.
Hughes himself carved the number '16' into the medial side of the leather upper on each boot, this was his first ever squad number at Manchester United. Many Manchester United players of old had a sort of tradition with this sort of thing, many liked to have their original squad number represented somewhere on their equipment even when they had made it to established first team players. For example, Paul Scholes tended to have his first squad number '53' stamped onto his training kit, and he even used to write it onto his boots too! The youth ethos at Manchester United is something that has run through the club's DNA for decades, with them featuring at least one academy graduate in every match for over 4,000 consecutive games, since Tom Manley & Jackie Wassall started that incredible run in 1937. This sort of detail shows that it means just that bit extra to a player for them to come through the ranks at Manchester United.
In the 1989-90 season, Hughes scored twice as United drew 3–3 with Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final, before a Lee Martin goal in the replay gave United their first major trophy in five years. He was United's top goal scorer that season, scoring 15 goals in all competitions; 13 of his goals had come in the league, where United finished a disappointing 13th. He scored his third United hat-trick in a September clash against Millwall in the league at Old Trafford, which United won 5–1. The following season, Hughes scored both goals against former club Barcelona as United lifted the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, winning the final 2–1 in Rotterdam. Once again, he was their top scorer, this time with 21 goals in all competitions, although his tally in the league was bettered by Brian McClair and Steve Bruce. They also reached the Football League Cup final that year, but United suffered a shock 1–0 defeat to a Sheffield Wednesday side managed by Ron Atkinson, who had been Hughes' manager in his first spell at Old Trafford. Hughes was also voted PFA Player of the Year again this season. The 1990–91 season also saw Hughes score the last of his four hat-tricks for United, in a League Cup quarter-final replay against Southampton at Old Trafford, which United won 3–2. In 1991–92, Hughes suffered the disappointment of missing out on a league title medal as United were pipped to the title by Leeds United, but had some compensation in the form of a League Cup winner's medal. He found the net 11 times in the league and 14 times in all competitions.
Mark Hughes made a staggering total of 467 appearances for Manchester United, scoring 163 goals in that time, and to think that he wore this exact pair for one of those full seasons in some very special moments, is incredible! They say the only way is down after you leave United, but few players move to a club like Barcelona, and fewer yet return to Old Trafford for a second even more successful spell with the Reds. His love affair with United began in March 1978 when he signed schoolboy forms as a 14-year-old, but few would have believed that this young midfielder from Wrexham would go on to become one of the club’s greatest-ever goal scorers.
In May 1993, Hughes finally collected an English league title medal as United won the first-ever Premier League title; Hughes was United's top scorer with 15 goals in the league and a further goal in the League Cup. From December, he mostly played alongside new signing Eric Cantona in attack, with Brian McClair being switched to the centre of midfield. Hughes collected yet more silverware in 1994 as United won the league title as well as the FA Cup, with Hughes scoring in the final. He also scored Manchester United's consolation goal in their 3–1 defeat in the 1994 League Cup Final at the hands of Aston Villa at Wembley in that season. In so doing, he became only the second player (after Norman Whiteside in 1983) to score in the finals of both the domestic cups in the same season. This has since been achieved a third time by Didier Drogba in 2007. His partnership with Cantona in attack also went from strength to strength, as he found the net 22 times in all competitions as Cantona scored a further 25.
What an incredible museum level piece of footballing history from a true Manchester United legend! Let us know what you think of this treasure in the comments below.