“A Celtic man until his last breath”.
That is how John Hughes’ heartbroken family described their hero following his tragic passing on Tuesday at the age of 79.
Hoops fans were left deeply saddened to hear of the Scotland international’s passing after a short illness but will remember him for his larger than life personality.
The Parkhead great managed to rally enough strength to sing the tune ‘Grace’ one last time before giving a small fist pump in celebration of Stephen Welsh’ opening goal during the 2-0 win over Aberdeen.
A social media message posted by his son John on behalf of his family read: “He rallied one last time on Sunday to sing us ‘Grace’ as best he could.
“His last conscious acts were hanging on for YNWA & giving us a wee fist pump celebration for Stephen’s goal. There is undeniable magic about this club we all love.”
Hughes was part of the club’s most successful squad as Jock Stein’s side defeated Inter Milan 3-2 in Portugal to lift the 1967 European Cup before going on to lose the 1970 final against Dutch side Feyenoord.
It was an incredible period of success for Celtic and Hughes’ former Lisbon Lion team-mate Jim Craig has also paid his own special tribute to the man nicknamed ‘Yogi’ after the children’s cartoon character Yogi Bear.
During his 12-year stay in Glasgow’ East End between 1959 and 1971, Hughes scored 189 goals in 416 appearances, placing him among the elite bracket of top ten all-time Celtic goal scorers.
Given his powerful imposing stature, Craig believes he was underrated by many due to the undoubted talent of winger Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone as he recalled his first ever encounter with the attacker before their Parkhead days together.
Speaking to the Daily Record, he said: “What memory of John Stands out? I have to go even further back to before Celtic.
“When I was 15 at St Gerard’s secondary school in Govan, we were entered in the Scottish Cup and drawn against St Pat’s, Coatbridge. None of us knew where it was. In those days, you tended to stay in your own area!
“Anyway, their bus arrived and there was this giant who came off it. We were all 15 years old. I was about 5ft eight and skinny as a poker and this giant came off the bus. He looked like a colossus. From another planet, to be honest.
“They beat us 6-0 and he scored all six from centre-forward. Fortunately I was at right-back that day and I managed to avoid him for most of the game. I became an expert at picking just the right time to tie my laces!
“That was my first memory of coming across him. Then when I got to Celtic Park he was bigger again. One day I asked him about that game and he said, ‘Aye, I think I remember’. I said ‘You think? Six goals? You should remember it!”
Hughes carried those goal scoring traits into the first-team at Celtic and scored on his debut, while netting twice to beat Rangers in the 1965 Scottish Cup Final.
Fans would often be heard chanting “Feed the Bear” due to his aggressive style of play and Craig admits it is easy to see why he was loved by supporters and team mates.
He added: “John was a big, easy-going fella and one whose talent was not always appreciated.
“I mean Jinky in terms of sheer ability on the ball was in a class of his own, but next to him was Yohi and for a guy his size and build, he had wonderful control with a ball at his feet.
“Doing those runs we used to do in training between the cones, Yogi was like a ballet dancer. A big, burly ballet dancer, right enough! But he would glide around and take the ball wherever he wanted.
“The great thing about our team is that, although we were not in and outh of each other’s houses every day, we would just sit wherever when you went down for breakfast at a hotel together because every single person got on.
“We were the same on the park and John was as friendly and approachable as everyone else.
“John is among the greats. The number of goals he scored in the number of games he played puts him right up there.”
Hughes won 17 trophies at Celtic, including seven league titles, four Scottish Cups and five League Cups.