Watch: Why Hibs legend John Hughes is a friend of Leith’s Citadel

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FORMER Easter Road favourite John ‘Yogi’ Hughes has backed a new fund-raising initiative for Leith’s Citadel Youth Centre by speaking about what going there as a kid meant to him.

In the film, which you can watch exclusively here, the former Hibs player and manager recalls how attending the Citadel as a teenager taught him the respect for others he now passes on to the players he manages as well as reflecting on how he lost his elder brother to heroin.

Hibs' Darren McGregor, Citadel General Manager Willy Barr and John (Yogi) Huges bring the Scottish Cup to Leith's Citadel Youth Centre

Hibs' Darren McGregor, Citadel General Manager Willy Barr and John (Yogi) Huges bring the Scottish Cup to Leith's Citadel Youth Centre

A Leither “born and bred”, Hughes, who also played for Celtic and has managed teams as diverse as Hartlepool United and Raith Rovers, reveals, “The values and the respect I learned here in the Citadel plays a massive part in how I manage my players now.

“At the time you didn’t realise you were learning these things, the tools that you need for further down the road.”

Remembering the day he first walked into the Citadel, he recalls, “It was like [walking into] the biggest hall in the world.

“We couldn’t get here quick enough, waiting on the doors opening, because it was a really fantastic environment.”

Then as now, the Citadel was a safe haven where young people could escape the harsh realities of their lives without fear of judgement.

In the film, made to raise awareness of the Citadel’s ‘Friends’ scheme, the 53-year-old recalls that back in his day, the scourge of drugs was just beginning to be felt in Leith.

“When we were coming up and the Citadel was just opening, drugs hit Leith and unfortunately I lost an older brother through heroin.

“I always look back and wonder... If he’d had a youth club, a place to go... that sort of comfort and maybe, older people giving him the guidance he needed, who knows, he might have still been here.

“That’s the part the Citadel plays.”

He adds, “Even when I was in the painting and decorating, coming 16, 17, and 18, I would still pop into the Citadel to see old friends, get a game of pool and a cup of tea, and I was always welcomed with open arms.”

Hughes continues to do so today, popping in for a kick about with the youngsters whenever he can.

“If I can inspire any young kids coming through the door of the Citadel, I’m certainly playing my part.”,

Becoming a Friend of Citadel means that for as little as £5 a month you can give vital support to the work the Centre does and helping to secure its future.

For example, a donation of just £5 a month pays for tea and toasties for the young job hunters who attend the weekly Careers Cafe, £10 can buy a first baby starter pack for a new young mum.

“Citadel is a fantastic place to be,” insists Hughes, adding, “I wear being a Citadel kid as a badge of honour.”

For more details on how to become a Friend of Citadel, visit http://friendsofcitadel.org.uk