JOHN HUGHES lived his football dream. He also lived his father Michael and rock and pop superstar Rod Stewart's dream into the bargain. It was Tommy Burns who granted Yogi his greatest ever wish. To play football for Celtic. For 15 glorious months between August 1995 and November 1996, Hughes admits he lived his best football life. He even got to meet Rod Stewart!

Yogi revealed that he was all set to put pen to paper and extend his stay at Falkirk when an unexpected phone call from Tommy Burns turned his football world upside down. Hughes joked that he initially told his future boss where to go because he thought it was then Bairns striker Mo Johnston pulling his leg and the deal with his agent Bill McMurdo, Tommy Burns, Billy Stark and himself was thrashed out in McMurdo's home whilst drinking tea from Rangers mugs. It was also concluded without the consent of then Celtic chief executive Fergus McCann.

Whilst Yogi was signing for Celtic, his old man Michael was buying drinks for everybody in an Edinburgh pub with money that he didn't have.

Hughes said: "Bill McMurdo was my agent at the time. Maurice Johnston was on loan at Falkirk from Hearts and both Mo and Bill were tight. I got friendly with Bill because of that.

"We were actually at Brockville negotiating a contract that day with the chairman. We were sitting in the car after the meeting and the phone rang. Bill said, 'I have the laddie here with me' and he handed me the phone and said it's Tommy Burns from Celtic.

"I've grabbed the phone and heard the Glasgow twang in the accent and said: 'Piss off Maurice!' I thought it was a wind-up and it was Maurice Johnston at it. The penny finally dropped when he said it is Tommy Burns and I want to sign you for Celtic. Bill said, 'it's true - it is Tommy Burns'.

READ MORE: Tosh McKinlay on Celtic under Tommy Burns, The Three Amigos and stopping the 10 - The Big Interview

"Bill went back on the phone and said he would do the deal straight away. Tommy told Bill that he would go to his house and everything would be sorted. Bill stayed in Easterhouse and we headed to his place. He told me that I had one phone call so I phoned my wife and told her I was signing for Celtic and I told her to make sure that she related the good news to my dad.

"My dad Michael Hughes was in a boozer in Leith. He bought everybody in the pub a drink on the never-never on the strength of me signing for Celtic. My dad didn't have his wages from work and I hadn't even signed the deal yet! My old man was a massive Celtic supporter and I was a Celtic fan when I was a kid up until the age of 14.

"I used to go on a supporters bus and when I started playing on a Saturday, I couldn't go to Parkhead so I started going to Easter Road and that's where the Hibs connection came in. We arrived at Bill's house and I turned to him and said, 'you are taking the piss here' as it was a mini-Ibrox.

"Red, white and blue blinds and the Rangers crest on the carpet and he couldn't move for laughing. I said, 'Bill, you are going to make an arse of this deal for me.'

"The door went and in walked Tommy Burns and Billy Stark. We all chatted about football and he asked me how I felt about signing for Celtic and I told him I was mad for it. Tommy said let me talk to Bill and a deal was struck over cups of tea served in Rangers mugs!

"You couldn't make it up. Bill put the terms and conditions of the deal to me and I said let's do it. We had to keep it all under wraps because Fergus McCann did not know anything about it.

"Tommy said I need a centre-half and I'm signing Yogi. He just did the deal there and then and he had to go back to Celtic Park and break the news to him. He told him that we would take our chances at a tribunal. That was that.

"On Saturday, Celtic were playing Newcastle United in a pre-season friendly and Bill was helping Rod Stewart who was coming to open the new stand. I was there in the morning and I passed my medical. Bill and I then jumped in a stretch limousine to the airport.

"This private jet flew in and Rod Stewart got off it and he introduced me to him. He told Rod, 'This is Yogi Hughes and he has just signed for Celtic'.

"Rod wished me all the best and he told me that it was a lifelong dream of his to play for Celtic. It was magnificent but totally surreal. Then they both jumped back in the limousine and they kicked me out because there wasn't enough room in the car for all of us. The photographer was going back to Celtic Park and I ended up having to get a lift back to the stadium with him!"

Celtic would eventually have to shell out £380,000 for his services.

Celtic Way:


Hughes was a throwback to a time of no-nonsense old-fashioned centre-halves with a real on and off the field presence. Yogi made an immediate impact on his debut for Celtic against Liverpool and impressed the faithful. It may have been a 0-0 draw but one incident, in particular, live long in Yogi's and the Celtic supporters' memories. It was also the last time that his father saw him play a game of football.

He said: "On Monday I made my debut against Liverpool at Celtic Park and it was great. My brother brought my dad through as he didn't keep in good health and that was the last time he watched me play a game of football. I am proud of the fact that my dad got to see me play in a Celtic shirt.

"It was a 0-0 draw against Liverpool. I remember it like it was yesterday as it was my ambition ever since I was a youngster to play for Celtic. To get that opportunity was wonderful.

"There was no nerves whatsoever despite the fact Ian Rush, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, John Barnes were all playing. I can remember McManaman going on a run in the second half and he knocked it down the line and he had all the grass to run into and I have just clothes-lined him right in front of the old jungle and the place erupted.

"The supporters took me to their hearts at that moment as they knew what they were getting. Ever since then the Celtic supporters have been brilliant to me."

Celtic Way:

One man though stands out like a beacon of light as having a profound influence on his career as a player and latterly as a football manager - Tommy Burns. Yogi admits that the greatest compliment he could ever give his former boss is that he is comparable to Pep Guardiola. He also believes that Burns set the template in terms of football style and philosophy for the modern-day Celtic. In fact, Yogi revealed that he absorbed everything that he taught him like a sponge and that he still uses his old mentor's methods as a football manager to this day.

Hughes said: "I worked hard to achieve everything that I got in my career. When I got to Celtic, everything was just a different level. The training was two gears up from anything I had experienced. The tempo and the speed was from a different planet. The intensity of the training was immense. Everything was done quicker with high quality and you had to see this to believe it. Tommy Burns just oozed class.

"Even as a footballer I tried to mark Tommy when he played for Kilmarnock and I could never get near him. The standard he set was incredible. If you had a growth then you had to go in the side door and pray Tommy or Frank Connor did not see you. They drummed it into you that you were representing Celtic Football Club on and off the park and you had to be cleanly shaven.

"The highest compliment I will give Tommy Burns is that he was Pep Guardiola long before Pep became a manager. He was miles in front and ahead of his time in terms of how the game should be played. Over-lapping full-backs is supposed to be a recent development in football, Tommy Burns was doing all that in the mid-1990s. We had Jackie McNamara crossing from one wing and Tosh McKinlay crossing the ball in from the other.

READ MORE: Paul Elliott on his love for Celtic, racism in football and partying in Victoria's with Rangers players - The Big Interview

"Tommy was total football and his Celtic team were bang at it all the time. I knew that if I was going into management I was going to do it right. Celtic's two-touch passing football drills and five-a-side matches came from the heart. They were breathtaking at times. This was Celtic Football Club in all its splendour. He just kept banging that drum in the sense that this is how the game should be played.

"The training was harder than the games. We would play young vs old and we'd play for an hour. If it wasn't going right then TB would step in and he would be the best player on the pitch. He was brilliant honestly what a talented player. His left foot was a wand.

"If he demonstrated any drill at training TB was always the best at it. If he passed the ball to you and you didn't pass the ball back to him properly he would tell you to do it all over again. That was the kind of manager he was.

"He demanded the highest standards at all times and he could deal with any footballer - The Three Amigos, Andy Thom, myself. He could have any Celtic player eating out the palm of his hand within seconds of talking to them. Billy Stark was sensational as well. Starkey used to nutmeg me every day in training!

"It got to the stage where the players thought I was the only guy playing for Celtic because all you would hear TB shout was 'Yogi, Yogi, Yogi'! I thought I was the only name that he knew at the club. Tommy knocked me into shape and made me Celtic class every day as a player. He would pull you aside and say things like what do you think and I would say this or that could be better and TB would say I brought you here to do what you did at Falkirk if we get more out of you then great.

"You don't play for Celtic if you are a mug and Tommy Burns would say things to me like, 'I don't care if you can't do what Paolo di Canio does because he can't do what you do and that Yogi son is how you build a team.' He made you feel at ease and comfortable at all times. That was a great team and we lost one game all season to Rangers and we finished four points off the top. 

"Sports Science is a big thing in football now and looking after yourself and your body. At Celtic Park in those days, you were fighting for a space in the gym. Everybody was competing and it was ferocious. I just loved every minute of it.

"I wrote everything that Tommy taught me down on sheets of paper and books. If this was the way football should be played then I wanted this manual when I became a manager. Every training session, drill, you name it, I wrote it down and I picked up bits 'n' pieces.

"I learned so much from him. No matter what we did it was always two-touch, pass and move attacking football, bump, bump, bump at a high tempo. Tommy instilled two-touch football into that Celtic team. It was brilliant and it took a bit of getting used to.

"This was the beginning of the modern-day Celtic. Celtic were transitioning and transforming when he was there. Tommy set out the blueprint for today's Celtic. He laid the foundations, ethos, philosophy and the style for the club we all know today.

"It was just great to be a part of it."

Celtic Way:


Despite losing a solitary league match in the scintillating, swash-buckling 1995/96 season, Celtic still fell short of winning the title by four points to a Paul Gascoigne inspired Rangers side. That was a crushing low for Yogi but there were two wonderful highs in the season. His two cherished goals that he scored in a Celtic jersey. One was against his former club Falkirk at Brockville. The other has gone down in Celtic folklore.

A late headed equaliser against Rangers at Ibrox in a 1-1 draw on St Patrick's Day in 1996 kept the SPL title race alive and sparked waterworks from a supposed football hard man as well as a wonderful touch from rival Ally McCoist. Yogi revealed that his emotions got the better of him as he raced away to celebrate the goal against Rangers.

Hughes said: "I scored two goals for Celtic. One was against Falkirk at Brockville in a 1-0 win and the other was that header on St Patricks Day 1996 at Ibrox in the 1-1 draw. Celtic fans still talk to me about that goal against Rangers. That moment in my career was not just great for me but it was great for Tommy Burns as it kept the title race going. It was nip and tuck all the way.

"I scored and the whole end was all Celtic fans. The tears were blinding me when I scored. I was full of emotion because I was thinking of everything - my dad, how hard I had worked to get to a club like Celtic, the club. the supporters and what it actually meant to me. I made it to Glasgow Celtic the hard way coming from the junior ranks and all that.

"It does not get any better than scoring for Celtic against Rangers at Ibrox which is why all the emotions came flooding out. I am still living off it every time I go through to Celtic Park. I was crying like a big kid. I remember going back to the centre-circle and I always had banter with Coisty (Ally McCoist)and he said to me, 'Well done Yogi, I'm so pleased for you.' A minute later Rangers hit the crossbar and Coisty had that big stupid grin on his face as if to say, 'We could so easily have spoiled your day big man!'.

"There are worse things to be remembered for to be fair."

Hughes' time at Celtic may have been fleeting but he wouldn't swap the experience for anything else in the world. Here was a genuine heart on the sleeve player who gave his all for every club he played for. He was cut from the same cloth as his Celtic manager. It is cloth woven from a working-class background where nobody forgets their humble roots.

Hughes admits during his time at Celtic Park he lived by the old adage made famous by Tommy Burns: "When you put on the Celtic jersey you’re not playing for a football team, you’re playing for a community and a cause."

Yogi revealed that when his father finally passed away through illness in 2006, he was buried in one of his Celtic shirts from the Tommy Burns era.

Hughes said: "Tommy Burns would remind the players all the time to enjoy being a Celtic player and give everything for the supporters. When you were signing autographs he would tell you that there would come a day when you would not be doing it. He drummed it into you daily that Celtic was a fans club and that you represented the supporters always both on and off the park.

"It was all working-class stuff. The message was never to get above your station and always be humble and remember your roots. TB was from the Calton which is a real working-class area of Glasgow.

"Tommy Burns gave both myself and Tosh McKinlay the chance to live our dream. The two of us always speak about how much it meant to us whenever we meet up. So much so that when my dad died in 2006 he was buried wearing one of my Celtic strips."

So what was it really like to fulfil your dream of turning out for your boyhood idols?

Hughes said: "It was a dream to play for Celtic. I have never won the lottery but I can imagine if somebody won the lottery then it would be a similar feeling. The day I signed for Celtic, I won the lottery. That's the feeling I got in my gut every day when I trained and played for Celtic."

Yogi's popularity endures as a former Celtic player to this day. Hughes felt privileged to play under the guidance of the wonderful Tommy Burns. Whilst his tenure in Paradise may have been a short one, Yogi has a lifetime of memories. Hughes really couldn't have asked for much more than that.