Mark Hughes played for some of Europe’s biggest clubs and had long written his name into Manchester United lore on joining Everton in March 2000. His arrival coincided with a contractual dispute between Don Hutchison and Walter Smith that saw the Everton manager exclude the auxiliary forward. To the hair-tearing frustration of Evertonians, Hughes was apparently on a bumper pay deal while Smith refused to give the younger man the rise to which he felt he was entitled, selling him at the season’s end.
Aged 36, Hughes arrived from Southampton where he had scored just twice in 50 starts. He still possessed all of the aggression and fight that had once been his trademarks, but his movement and pace were virtually non-existent. While Hughes could battle, scrap and hold the ball up all day long he was a negligible threat in front of goal. He scored just once in an Everton shirt, and while there was a man of the match winning performance in a derby stalemate, little else of consequence occurred in a dismal seven-month Goodison sojourn.
Hughes, who combined playing for Everton with management of Wales, joined Blackburn Rovers in October 2000, playing on for a further eighteen months before switching to full time management.