Standing room only as family, friends and team-mates pay tribute to SAFC FA Cup legend Billy Hughes

Hundreds of people turned out to pay tribute at the funeral of Sunderland FA Cup legend Billy Hughes.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 10:56 am

The Scot, who scored twice in the 3-1 fifth-round replay against Manchester City voted Roker P:ark’s best ever game, died last month after a long illness, just days short of his 71st birthday.

Members of the 1973 squad were joined by fellow professionals from clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Derby County for the service in Derby.

Among the mourners was a group from Sunderland’s Fans’ Museum, including 1973 Cup-winning captain Bobby Kerr.

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The party from the Fans' Museum with Michael Ganley (left), and Bobby Kerr and his 1973 team-mate Dave Watson holding the cup

“We, as a group, are all Sunderland fans, that is what it is all about, and it was nice we were able to go down,” said museum founder Michael Ganley.

“There were nine of us and a few other Sunderland supporters, which was really nice.

“Altogether, there were seven of the 1973 squad there.”

Billy was a licensee in Derby and ran the Keddleston Park golf club in Derbyshire after retiring from football, and many members of the golfing community also turned out to pay their respects.

The church had been packed, said Michael

“There were a lot of his family and friends and it was a very fitting send-off,” he said.

“You could see the genuine reaction from Billy’s wife when she saw his former team-mates there.

“The congregation was lined up right down the sides of the church and packed into the centre aisle too. The priest actually said that in the 40 years he had been conducting services, it was the first time he had seen a congregation as big as that.”

It had been a fitting tribute to one of Sunderland AFc’s true heroes, said Michael: “The priest obviously knew him and said that it was the first and last time he would ever refer to him as William because everybody around the world just knew him as Billy.

“Obviously, it was a sad occasion - he had been in ill health for a period of time – but it was a lovely day and a perfect send off for him.”