HE has an especially soft spot for Jackie Milburn, the legendary Newcastle goal- scorer and England player.
“I met him five or six times. He was one of the nicest people, a real gentleman,” he says.
Then he brings out the England tie. It’s signed by captain Steven Gerrard. “I got that off a friend.”
Even the most seasoned soccer fan would probably now be in awe.
Phil Hughes just looks slightly abashed when he admits that he’s getting pushed for space for a collection of football memorabilia that would make most devotees of the game salivate.
From the distaff side of the gender divide, you just have to admire his spouse, Sheila: the recess filled by his amassed books, programmes and other ephemera of the ‘beautiful game’ looks suspiciously to have been the linen cupboard originally.
“Since I was a kid, I’ve collected programmes, books, autographs – much to the wife’s dismay,” he says, with a grin.
Where there are currently gaps, however, there is a good reason for them, as visitors to South Shields Museum can currently see.
Says Phil: “There’d been an article in the Gazette about ideas being invited for museum displays.
“It struck me that the only museum that caters for football fans is in London; even the bits and pieces that the likes of Newcastle Utd have are not on general display.
“Yet the North-East is full of football nuts who would like to see things about the game but there is nowhere for them to go.”
Which is how the father-of-two came to offer items from his own collection for exhibition.
Primarily, they’re the ones that have the most local associations, so visitors will find memorabilia relating to people like the great South Shields and England player Stan Mortensen; Jarrow-born Ian Handysides, who played for Birmingham City and the England youth team, and Shields-born Sam Bartram, who played for Charlton Athletic and was also capped for England.
“There are so many lads who got away and made professional careers for themselves,” he says.
Even FA Cup Amateurs’ medals have been loaned, by his pal Ron Tatum, who captained the North Shields side when they won at Wembley in 1969.
The 61-year-old taxi driver and former shipyard plater grew up in Jarrow, dividing his local loyalties between Newcastle and Sunderland.
Among his treasures is a programme for Newcastle’s fixture with Aston Villa during the 1949-1950 season. It cost 2d (1p).
But his real devotion is reserved for Liverpool FC. “I’ve been a fan for 50 years,” he says, one of his proudest possessions being the large framed photograph of the Liverpool side that hangs on the wall of his den and is signed by all the players, among them Alan Hansen and Kenny Dalglish, as well as by manager Bob Paisley.
Other autographs in his collection represent some of the stellar names of football: George Best, Bobby Moore, Malcolm Macdonald, Gordon Banks.
Some have been bought, but most garnered from matches, football dinners, testimonials etc over the years.
There is a personal dedication from Tommy Smith, who made more than 600 appearances for Liverpool FC.
While a framed signed shirt reflects an Irish ancestry, recalling the goal-less draw between Montenegro and Eire in the World Cup qualifier in 2008.
Today he doesn’t go to see so many matches as he once did.
“I used to go every week when I was single but then it got I couldn’t afford it.”
But he carries on collecting. “The only thing is I’m running out of room.”