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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
Mark Hughes' FA Cup odyssey
By Chris Bevan

Few players have such a special relationship with the FA Cup as Mark Hughes.

Paul Ince congratulates Mark Hughes after his goal in the 1990 FA Cup final
Paul Ince congratulates Mark Hughes after his goal in the 1990 FA Cup final

The man described by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as 'the best big-game player I have ever known', lifted the Cup on four occasions in an illustrious playing career.

Hughes' first success came with United as a 21-year-old in 1985, his last with Chelsea 12 years later.

As a manager, Hughes steered Blackburn to a semi-final in 2005 and is in the last four again this year.

Rovers play Chelsea in Sunday's semi-final at Old Trafford for the right to play in the first final at the new Wembley.


Can his magic touch continue?

BBC Sport talks to Hughes' team-mates from each of his previous Cup wins about the 'Sparky factor' that has brought him so much success in the competition.

Arthur Albiston
1985 Manchester United 1-0 Everton (AET)
Arthur Albiston
Man Utd 1974-88

You always get confident and cocky lads coming through at Manchester United but Mark wasn't like that.

Back then you could see he had a steely determination in what he wanted to do and how he played. He wasn't fazed by anything.

He was a very unassuming type of guy off the field when he was younger and he was not the loudest on it either.

But he did not show any nerves at all before the game.

The United team was full of household names like Bryan Robson, Frank Stapleton and Gordon Strachan but there was no edge to them - they were all down-to-earth guys.

He was in the side on merit and I'd like to think we made it easy for Mark to slot in.

Mark had already scored to help us beat Liverpool in the semi-final replay at Maine Road, so even then he was a scorer of important goals.

When Kevin Moran was sent off in the final it was definitely a backs to the wall job for us.

But Everton had played in the European Cup Winners' Cup final against Rapid Vienna three days before, so they were feeling a little bit tired from that and the effect of playing on the big pitch at Wembley as well.

I will always remember Norman Whiteside's winner. Mark actually started off the move in the centre-circle, Gordon distracted a few defenders and Norman bent it in.

That was Mark's game. He would bring people into play and defenders knew they could not shake him off the ball around the half-way line. That was such an important outlet for us that day.

Gary Pallister
1990 Manchester United 3-3 Crystal Palace (United won replay 1-0)
Gary Pallister
Man Utd 1989-98

Sparky came up with important goals for us so many times. He was always the man for the big occasion and more often than not it was a spectacular one as well.

Hughes celebrates scoring in the 1990 FA Cup final
Hughes celebrates scoring in the 1990 FA Cup final

We used to call him the 'double-legend' because of his rapport with the fans and in the big-time games he usually came to the fore.

This was the first Cup final I played with Mark. We were in trouble, trailing to Palace, and he scored twice to really haul us to a replay, which we won.

I will never forget his third goal because I was sat on the bench. I had just come off with a twisted ankle.

We were 3-2 down and running out of time. I thought my first Cup final was going to end in bitter disappointment but again he came up with the goods, and struck the ball low into the far corner of the net.

When you look at that team now, we had a lot of strong characters in there. Mark was one of them - somebody who would go that extra yard and also demand more from team-mates.

If you were having an off-day or shirking responsibility then you soon got told about it. That did develop an attitude of never-say-die which served us well.

Paul Parker
1994 Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea
Paul Parker
Man Utd 1991-96

Whenever it mattered, Mark was a player that Sir Alex could always depend upon and almost guarantee a performance from.

He said that a number of times over the years I was at United.

Hughes could always handle the pressure. He showed that in the semi-final against Oldham with such a brilliant equaliser when we looked dead and buried.

Hughes grabbed United's third goal against Chelsea in 1994
Hughes grabbed United's third goal against Chelsea in 1994

We had not played great, and almost got caught short but Sparky gave us a real reprieve. In that situation I don't think anyone else could score a goal like it - lots of strength and a volley at the end of it - not many could do both together.

In the final, the game was a real war of attrition in the first-half and Gavin Peacock hit the bar for Chelsea.

We got a little bit of a rollicking at half-time and came out a lot better, got a penalty, and went on from there. There was only going to be one winner then.

Generally, because of the players I had around me, I believed every time we played that we were going to win - and it was the same this time.

There were a lot of players at the club who had been there and done it. It was my first final but I'd played in semi-finals so even I was experienced.

And every game was the same with Mark. He was quiet as a mouse before the game but once he was out there, you knew he was out there - more than most people just by the way he would trample round on those big heavy legs of his.

Eddie Newton
1997 Chelsea 2-0 Middlesbrough
Eddie Newton
Chelsea 1990-99

When I first saw Mark in training I thought 'who is this? What is he doing?'

He wasn't the best.

But as soon as he came into a game situation he just became a totally different animal - and he just wanted to win. That is what made him the player he was.

In the quarter-final against Liverpool we were 2-0 down at half-time, then Mark came on and we won 4-2.

We were quite surprised that Mark didn't start the game in the first place because he and Gianfranco Zola had been linking up so well.

At half-time it was an obvious change for the manager Ruud Gullit to make and it just seemed like everyone clicked into gear.

Hughes was one of the elder statesmen in Chelsea's 1997 Cup-winning team
Hughes was one of the elder statesmen in Chelsea's 1997 Cup-winning team

Mark was the catalyst. He came on with his usual style of getting physically involved with the back four and we got on top of the game. All of a sudden the Liverpool players were arguing with each other and we knew the game had changed.

In the final itself, we were very confident going into the game. We honestly believed we would win if we stuck to our gameplan, and we did.

I played in 1994 when we lost to United. We had a lot of young players who hadn't experienced the big-time games yet. This was a totally different scenario.

We had such a good blend of youth and experience, and of English and foreign players. It just seemed the perfect mix.

We got the best possible start through Roberto Di Matteo's goal and the rest is history as they say.

I was not surprised at all to see Mark doing so well in management. He always had a level head and he has that fighting spirit too - he doesn't like to lose.

  • Many thanks go to Mark Westwood of Chelsea Old Boys.

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