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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Hughes awarded OBE
Wales manager Mark Hughes
I see this medal as a reward for everyone, not just me
Wales manager Mark Hughes
Wales manager Mark Hughes has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list.

The 40-year-old from Wrexham, who got a MBE in 1998, has transformed the fortunes of a struggling national side since taking sole charge in 2000.

He said: "I am very proud to have received another medal, it certainly is not something you expect or set out to achieve when you first start in football.

"This OBE is for everyone involved with the Welsh squad, as well as the fans who have turned up in their tens of thousands to watch the team."

Hughes led Wales on a record breaking 10 match unbeaten run between 2001 and 2003, which included home wins over Italy and Germany.

But last season ended in huge personal disappointment when Wales lost to Russia in a Euro 2004 play-off.

A victory in the two legged match would have ended a 46-year wait for Wales to qualify for the finals of a major international tournament.

Consequently, Hughes will be only an observer in Portugal - paying particular close attention to World Cup 2006 qualifying opponents England.

"It has taken five long, hard years to get Wales to where they are now but it could not have been done without the backing of my family, and all my staff and the players in the squad," Hughes added.

"The work they have all put in has helped me and we could not have achieved what we have done without that total dedication from everybody.

"That is why I see this medal as a reward for everyone, not just me."

As well as instilling a new sense of self-belief and pride in the players, Hughes has also re-generated the feel-good factor among Welsh fans after years of despair.

We have changed the mind-set of people about Wales
Wales manager Mark Hughes
All the home fixtures in the Euro 2004 qualifiers were played in front of sell-out crowds in the Millennium Stadium, making Wales the best supported country in Europe.

In keeping with Hughes' fierce will to win, the manager has quickly shaken the team out of any sense of self-pity following the bitter defeat to Russia - and the subsequent protests and appeals to Uefa.

The preparation for the keenly anticipated World Cup qualifiers - which also includes games against Northern Ireland - started with a 4-0 thumping of Scotland, followed by an away win in Hungary, a draw in Norway and a comfortable win over Canada.

Fans now expect, rather than hope for success; and Hughes feels a deep sense of responsibility to deliver the goods after so many near misses.

Hughes said: "We have changed the mind-set of people about Wales. Everybody who plays us now knows they have to be at the very top of their game to beat us, we are now a team that has earned respect.

"We can hold our heads up in any company these days."

Hughes has a contract with Wales until the end of the 2006 World Cup campaign - but various Premiership clubs have already come knocking.

Ambition has never been a problem for the quite Welshman who won every domestic medal in the club game as a player.

It will come as no surprise if this is just the beginning of a managerial career which will yield many more rewards.






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MBE joy for Williams
11 Jun 04  |  Wales



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