THE SUNDAY LEAGUE TEAM WHO ARE 'FAMOUS'
Inspired by a cine-film-making Uncle, the Hughes brothers were perhaps destined to record some of Edmonton Rovers matches for posterity providing the club could survive long enough while they saved up the money to purchase some sort of camera. Thankfully, the successful 1979-1980 season came to the rescue and it was during this campaign that the first-ever recorded footage of an Edmonton Rovers match was captured on cine-film (without sound).
The match in question was a fairly routine Edmonton Sunday League Division 8 fixture against St. Pauls Church at Montague Rec. in Edmonton on the 4th November 1979, but as Laurence Hughes was forced into acting as a stand-in goalkeeper in that match, it was Trevor Hughes who actually filmed the footage. However, none of it captured his brother letting in a silly goal from the half-way line (sailed over his head !) or dropping numerous crosses as all the footage consisted of was about a minute's worth of out-of-focus grass or sky !
Subsequent matches therefore saw Laurence Hughes have a go and he proved to be a bit more adept, although Trevor gradually improved as the season went on and some great action was captured, including Kieran McGregor's famous last-minute equaliser in the Weekly Herald Cup Final at a packed Barrass Stadium !
However, having to set up a projector to view these silent and often poor-quality cine-films was a real pain and the idea was abandoned at the start of the following season, especially with the 'B' Team starting up and the Hughes brothers having to play more often.
Although Rovers did have their Edmonton Sunday League Intermediate Cup Final defeat against Craig Park Centre in 1982 captured (rather poorly) on video by midfielder Terry Clark's uncle, it was really the advent of the first-ever camcorder in 1985 that re-kindled the Hughes brothers' enthusiasm as here was something far more convenient - small VHS-C tapes which you just put in an adaptor and played on one of those new-fangled VCR's which had just come on the market at the time !
As it was Trevor Hughes who actually paid for this camcorder (a shoulder-mounted JVC GRC-1 model), he started doing most of the filming as Rovers tested the camcorder out for the first time in a Pre-Season Friendly against an Anglo-Italian team, F.C. Martini in Northwood, Middlesex on Sunday 18th August 1985. However, at least 5 others had a go that day, including Laurence Hughes, as the Camcorder was passed around as a gimmick and that was basically how it was used for the next four seasons with various club members taking it in turns to film bits & pieces of matches (but not every match), and basically just releasing the pause button whenever the ball got near the goal !
More often than not it was Laurence Hughes doing the filming though as he was the most competent cameraman, and after getting a few enquiries from opposing teams as to whether they could buy a copy of the footage, he decided to leave his job at W.H.Smith in February 1990 and start his own Company, Hughes Video Services, with the aim of specialising in filming Amateur & Semi-Professional Football Matches, which of course included filming every Edmonton Rovers match...properly !
That saw Hughes purchase a Sharp S-VHS-C Camcorder, which had a far better picture than Trevor Hughes's now antiquated JVC model and this was tested out in (unfortunately) a goal-less draw against Skidmore ('Skidmark') Athletic at Presdales in Ware on Sunday 11th February 1990. Having got in some practice then, Hughes used the following week's fixture (ironically against Skidmore again) as his first-ever professionally-filmed match, using a tripod, filming the whole game and editing the footage afterwards to include slow-motion replays and titles and since then he has never looked back, going on to film hundreds of Rovers matches with an ever-improving quality and only missing a handful of matches throughout the last 20 years when he has had to play because of injuries or players not turning up.
Compilation videos of each Rovers season throughout the 1990’s (with a narration by Laurence Hughes) were then produced, along with 'Out-Takes' (strictly for Club Members only !) & Goal of the Season videos for viewing at the club's A.G.M.'s.
On producing the very first Compilation at the end of the 1990-1991 season, Laurence Hughes embarked on a media campaign which initially saw the club featured in several local newspaper articles before they got their first TV exposure in 1991 when Danny Baker hosted a programme ('The Game') on ITV featuring primarily the East London Sunday League, but also showing clips of humorous incidents captured on video at Sunday League matches all over the Country. Naturally, Hughes sent in several, but it was footage of a shot from Julien Nurse hitting the crossbar from 50 yards (at Home to Botany Bay) that really put Rovers on the map as far as National Fame was concerned as it finished in second place in their Video Clip of the Series.
On the back of that, Hughes put some of the Compilation videos on sale in Sportspages in the Charing Cross Road, where a copy was bought by a Producer from BBC Radio 5's 'Sunday Brunch' programme. On hearing Hughes's 'comical' narration on the video, the Sunday Brunch programme therefore decided to have the club as a regular feature on their show which went out live and co-incided neatly with Rovers arrival at the Stag & Hounds Pub in Edmonton after their match in the morning. This saw presenter Mariella Frostrup phoning the Stag & Hounds every Sunday to get a match report from Laurence Hughes and interview some players, which on one occasion included a seriously-drunken 'Willie' Platt, who spoilt what was supposed to be a highbrow Arts programme with a Charlie Drake ‘Allo My Darlin’ impersonation in trying to chat up one of the most famous and glamorous media personalities in Britain !
'Sunday Brunch' continued featuring Rovers for a couple of seasons in the early-90's until the show was axed to make way for BBC Radio 5 Live, but even better publicity was to come Rovers way in September 1994 when Sky Sports 2's ' Sunday morning 'Soccer Extra' show started a 'Sunday League Soccer' feature in which a spoof commentary (by their own 'Steve & Jonty') was dubbed on to video footage sent in by Sunday League clubs. Fortunately, Laurence Hughes happened to be watching the programme at the time the request for footage was made, so he immediately sent them a copy of Rovers impressive 9-2 victory over Old Star Rangers and this ended up being the first match shown on the feature and subsequently being given a real plug with a full 10 minutes highlights being shown, together with live telephone interviews with Laurence Hughes and the Old Star Rangers Manager.
This was to start an amazing run of fame as for the next five years, Rovers match videos were consistently shown on the programme every three or four weeks on average and with the show rapidly attaining cult status when it switched to Saturday mornings to become 'Soccer A.M.', Rovers became so famous that players such as Conor McGovern even found himself being recognised by strangers as a result ! Indeed whenever Rovers played a match in their distinctive all green kit, numerous people (mainly kids) involved in other matches would turn around and shout 'Oh look, it's Edmonton Rovers' and then wave to the camera (trying to ‘get on Sky') while almost asking our players for their autographs !?
Unfortunately, Soccer A.M.’s 'Sunday League Soccer' feature finished in 1999 when Steve & Jonty moved onto other things, and with Laurence Hughes moving to digital filming and production from S-VHS in the early-2000’s, the next step for Rovers videos was therefore the Internet and having clips shown on the club website on a regular basis. This was in the form of a Goal Of The Season Top 10, a Goal Of The Decade (1990’s) Top 20 and a Video Clip Of The Week which was changed after every match. These were all saved as wmv files and they ran from the server that hosted the actual website. In 2003, Laurence Hughes started producing DVD's of matches, and these proved to be very popular with opposing teams buying copies and Rovers players themselves snapping up regular highlights compilations that were produced after every 4-5 matches played.
Full DVD’s of matches are still produced and are now made available for the general public to buy online via credit/debit card from the Hughes Video Services website. In addition to that, since the start of Season 2009-2010, highlights of every match have been shown publicly on You Tube with an ever-increasing editing & production quality. Initially the highlights were of only 5-10 minutes duration due to You Tube restrictions, but now they are usually 20-25 minutes long and each match has an average of approximately 350 views. In November 2013, Laurence Hughes started filming, editing and uploading matches in full high-definition, so the highlights on You Tube since then have had a much improved picture quality.
As for the future, Laurence Hughes is hoping to find and convert various old pieces of classic Rovers footage into You Tube clips for a ‘bloopers’ section or DVD which may hopefully raise some money for the club, but obviously that will take quite some time.
To view the Hughes Video Services You Tube channel, use the following link: http://www.youtube.com/user/hughesvideo