Unsung Heroes: Jimmy Hughes

By Pete H

Pick any point in Boro’s history before 1995 and you’ll likely hear Martin Gittings’ name come up. Now, you don’t need us to tell you that Gitts was a class above when it comes to banging ’em in. But you could argue that our record scorer’s abilities in front of goal made it too easy to overlook the exploits of others; the lads who took on goalscoring duties when Gitts wasn’t around. That’s why the form of Jimmy Hughes during the 1990-1 season can’t be overlooked.

When did Jimmy Hughes join us?

To be honest, Hughes’ time with us – we believe – started way back in 1978; Boro’ still only a youth side at the time. We’re not if he started representing the club before that – or indeed how many times he did at that level. But all we can say for certain is that he wasn’t listed on our books when we joined the United Counties League in 1980. Instead, we wouldn’t see him again until late on during our ill-fated 1987-8 Vauxhall Opel League Division One season.

We think he came to us from Hertford Town on that occasion. He then left; rejoining the club for a third spell in 1990 from Boreham Wood. Mind you, players moved around so much back then. So, we can only be so sure about that…

Where did he play for Boro’?

Up top, in attack.

What makes him an unsung hero?

Well, Hughes found the net in each of his three spells at the club. We can’t say much for the late 1970s as we’ve explained. But it took just two matches into his ‘return’ in 1988 to get up and running. Alas, he found himself in a floundering side and he only managed that solitary goal (away to Wolverton Town). And, as we’re about to discover, goals would turn out to be a big part of his third stint with us – a stint that, to us, makes him a genuine unsung hero.

At the top of the piece, we brought Gitts’ name into despatches. The legendary striker would be our top scorer in the 1991-2, 1992-3, and 1993-4 campaigns as we climbed up the Isthmian League ladder; bagging 44, 34, and 40 goals respectively. Yet, the 1990-1 season set that all in motion as Boro’ cruised to the Division Two North title. Gitts wasn’t at Broadhall Way for that title success. Instead, Hughes was the man who did the lion’s share of the goalscoring.

Jimmy Hughes scored 32 times in 53 appearances across the 1990-1 campaign.

Hughes scored 32 times in 53 appearances across the 1990-1 campaign. It was a free-scoring Boro’ side to be fair – but he still came top of the pile. Shaun Marshall trailed him in second with 21 goals, so a clear winner there. Meanwhile, there were a good few occasions when our points haul was boosted by virtue of the goals he scored; turning draws into wins and so on. If nothing else, his return for that season was 0.6 goals per game.

It’s also worth noting that 32 is the joint-seventh highest number of goals scored by a single player in a single season – level with Steve Morison in the 2008-9 season. Moro’, Carl Alford, and Gitts (x4) are the only players to better that since the 1980-1 campaign. It’s quite the list of iconic strikers. And, with his five other senior goals for Boro’, Jimmy Hughes still sits joint-16th in our all-time list on 37. The other person on that number is Luke Norris.

Jimmy Hughes: Epilogue

You have to think that Hughes could have added more goals to his tally at Broadhall Way. It certainly wasn’t unthinkable; starting the 1991-2 campaign with the winner against Ware in a Herts Charity Cup tie. But he found himself in and out of the team, which later became “out” by the end of October 1991. At this time, Gitts was back on the scene and, as Hughes himself alludes to in a 2016 interview, competition for places was fierce.

It’s then a tale of contrasting trajectories. Gitts went on to score a mammoth 44 goals by the end of the 1991-2 campaign. Hughes, meanwhile, was off on the move to Boreham Wood with the season entering its closing stages. Here, believe it or not, he was in close quarters with a certain Phil Wallace; our current chairman at the time leading the Wood. In January 1993, the forward joined Hitchin Town and helped the Canaries to their own title win.

For us, it feels like we had a real sliding doors moment in the early part of the 1991-2 season. By his own admission, Hughes “didn’t see eye to eye with [Cloughie] quite a lot of the time” due to the rotation policy. Had he stayed at the club, however, more goals would surely have followed. In doing so, he’d be much higher up the list of record goalscorers. Obviously not as high as Gitts, but certainly etched more into the list of early 1990s legends of the Boro’?

JIMMY HUGHES66 (6) appearances*, 37 goals (1978-91)

(* excludes information from before the 1980-1 season; main photo via Steve Mellor)

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