Gloucester’s John Hughes started kicking the soccer ball around when he was in primary school in the West Midlands, United Kingdom.
His passion for playing ‘football’ continued into secondary school where was chosen to represent the “local school boys” in a region larger than Newcastle, NSW.
He played centre forward in this squad from age 12 until 15 when he finished school. Being a part of this soccer squad meant that John was able to compete against a lot of different players from other parts of the UK.
When he was 14 years old, he was part of a “school boy tour” of the south coast of England, playing five or six games over a seven to 10 day period, and at 15 years old, the squad played a knockout competition across England.
“One of the perks of playing at this level, was we were able to train at professional football grounds,” John said.
During this time, scouts from the professional clubs would come to certain games looking for the next big talent.
John was invited down to the Wolverhampton Wanderers football club.
It was a first division football club at the time under the management of professional footballer, Stan Cullis.
John was asked to join the squad with the opportunity to become an apprentice professional or a “train-on” player. Becoming an apprentice professional meant that when he turned 18 years old he would become a professional player.
“Dad said that I needed to get a trade before committing to football,” John said.
“And he was right.”
So, John found an apprenticeship in cabinet-making, but his soccer journey was far from over.
He ended up training with the club three times a week, which was kind of professional, as he was given “expenses” money; although, he didn’t really have expenses, as he rode is push-bike the 14 miles to practice and the 14 miles back.
As soccer is a winter sport, he would “cop a bit on bad weather” on the journey sometimes.
Eventually he got sick of the travel, getting up at 7am and returning at 8pm completely exhausted, so he gave it up and started playing for local teams.
“It was more relaxed football,” he said.
“I even got to play with my cousin,” he recalls. “I really looked up to him. He was at a level I wanted to be at.”
“I was never good enough to play division one, but I did play in division two a few times,” John remembers.
In 1972, John immigrated to Australia and ended up settling in Barrington with his wife, Wendy. Not long after getting here, John started playing for the Taree Lions. After two years, he decided to start a club in Gloucester.
Gloucester Soccer Club began with a senior men’s team in 1976, playing on the field at Gloucester High School.
John continued to play for another 15 years before turning to coaching.
The last time Gloucester had a men’s team was in 1999 and they won the Manning district soccer premiership.
“We’ve started it up again this year,” John said.
Gloucester Soccer Club now has a men’s team playing in the Manning competition, almost 20 years after retiring with the premiership title.
John is still heavily involved with the Gloucester Soccer Club and can be seen regularly around the fields.
The club has more than 200 players and in 2017, it finally got a clubhouse.