Vikes soccer coach Brian Hughes

Courtesy of Cleve Dheensaw, Times Colonist

Former North American Soccer League and Swansea City pro Brian Hughes, who later found success on the sidelines as head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team, has died at age 80.

Hughes began coaching at UVic in 1972 and is the second-longest tenured UVic men’s soccer coach. He took the Vikes through 1983, with a 39-10-17 regular-season record in 12 seasons, before handing the coaching reins to former national team player Bruce Twamley.

Hughes’ tenure on the UVic soccer bench is surpassed only by Bruce Wilson’s current 30-season run. Hughes is one of only five coaches to have guided the Vikes in 50 years, including team founder Wally Milligan for three seasons, Twamley for four seasons and former Canadian national team player Ike MacKay for one season.

Hughes coached UVic to its first CIAU national men’s soccer title in 1975, defeating the Alberta Golden Bears and Saskatchewan Huskies in the Canada West playoffs, before downing Dalhousie and Concordia as UVic hosted the national tournament at Centennial Stadium.

“Brian was an excellent coach and was very good at inspiring a group of young, energetic players we had at the time,” said Robin Burrell, who played for UVic under Hughes. “It was a learning experience from the outset, and Brian was instrumental in instilling a love for the game in all who were fortunate enough to learn from him.”

Several of Hughes’ later UVic players went on to play in the Canadian national team program.

“Many great players emerged from UVic,” noted Burrell.

Twamley guided the Vikes to their second of five national titles in 1987. Although no longer coach, that championship was sweet for Hughes, because son John Hughes was a star player on the 1987 UVic team. Brian Hughes was especially proud to see his son graduate from Mount Douglas Secondary — where he played on a Rams team that included Yahoo co-founder Jeff Mallett and historic soccer heart-transplant pro Simon Keith — before John Hughes went on to play pro in the CSL for the Victoria Vistas and internationally for Canada U-19 and then earning five caps with the Canadian senior national team. Brian Hughes, as the inaugural head coach of the Vistas, got to coach his son in the CSL.

Hughes continued his respected coaching career and taught the game at several levels, including with the national team program. Hughes, with co-coach Brett Hyslop, guided the Lower Island team to the Canadian U-19 title in 1993.

As a player, Brian Hughes made the U-23 team for Wales and performed professionally for Swansea City from 1956 to 1964. He was a highly proficient defender, scoring seven goals from his rearguard position, in 231 English League appearances.

Hughes led Swansea to a breathless run in the 1963-64 FA Cup, beating Barrow, Sheffield United, Stoke City and Liverpool before just failing to make the final in Wembley after bowing 2-1 in a semifinal loss to Preston North End before 68,000 fans at Villa Park in Birmingham.

Hughes came to the fledgling NASL, playing in the league’s first two season in 1967 and 1968, for the Atlanta Chiefs. He moved to Victoria in 1970, beginning his Island soccer journey as playing coach of London Boxing Club of the VISL.

“Brian was such a nice guy and also very competitive. He had played at a high level for Swansea, so he understood the game well. He understood it inside out,” said Frank Woods, who played under Hughes at UVic, and later in the national team program.

Hughes’ former players and others in the Island soccer community are invited to attend a celebration of his life on Nov. 3, between 2 to 5 p.m., at the Uplands Golf Club clubhouse.

Hughes is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lorna, son John and granddaughters Kierra, Carys, Brynna, Shelby and Abbey. Hughes was predeceased by son David.