Connect in the back of the net

It was reported on the 22nd June that the Hornets secured the signing of the England Under-21 midfielder Will Hughes for £4.5 million which is rising to £7 million, who apparently has been on their radar for a while and is awaiting to pass his medical test, once home from competing in a tournament with England Under 21’s.

Despite interest from Newcastle, chief scout Graham Carr admitted constantly attending many of Hughes’ matches at Pride Park. Three times during the Alan Pardew era, Hughes’ name was pushed into the direction of Newcastle’s top brass but it never got further then a scan of scouting reports or initial checks.

By the time Steve McClaren arrived at Newcastle in 2015, the prospect of the Rams selling one of their best players to the manager who had initially left on bad terms, before making up and appointing him again in 2016, was never on the cards.

Also, Hughes was constantly linked to Liverpool, being a Liverpool fan himself made the ‘rumoured offer’ even more exciting for the youngster.

When Brendan Rodgers was in charge of Liverpool, it was rumoured that it would be £15 million pounds to secure the signature of the blonde bombshell.

In an interview in 2013, Rodgers stated that I read we had put in a bid or something had been agreed and there is nothing further from the truth. There is no bid, there has been nothing.’

Even though Rodgers’ comments indicated there was no definite bid, the links were not surprising given the midfielder’s meteoric rise at Derby.

 

Derby born and bred

Hughes was born and raised in Repton, Derby, where he attended the prestigious Repton School in his younger years.

As every young lad who was football mad, Hughes decided to play for his local club Mickleover Jubilee, before he later signed for the Rams as a first-year scholar in 2011.

In Hughes’ first season 2011-2012, he made his debut under the Nigel Clough era, where many players, bar Conor Doyle from America, were all from Great Britain with no inclusion of European, African or Asian players.

Hughes made his first team full debut at the tender age of 17 against Peterborough, whereby Derby lost 3-2 conceding in injury time.

As Hughes was still learning a lot about life in the Championship feeding off the more experienced midfielders in the team whilst he was on the bench, he rarely featured only making three appearances and not scoring.

 

Remember the name

In the next three seasons was when Hughes truly made a name for himself.

He added goals to his game which is crucial for a box-to-box midfielder and always the first name on the team sheet, featuring in 35 games in 2012-2013 season and 40 plus games for two seasons running from 2013-2015.

Funnily enough, Hughes’ debut goal came against the club he now plays for Watford, where Derby were victorious thumping the Hornets 5-1 in September 2012.

Slowly the scouts tried to keep a low profile, but there was a lot of interest for Hughes, even former Fulham manager Martin Jol stated Believe me, there are probably 10 clubs in the Premier League having a look at him. He is one of these wonderful talents, so he is always on lists. If you have a good scouting system, he will always be on the list but we will see.’

Hughes’ highest scoring season was 2013-2014 where he featured in 48 Derby games bagging 5 goals in all competitions.

 

Is Hughes Premier League ready? Who are his competitors?

Hughes has broken to the footballing scene at a young age and has developed as a player.

Hughes would fit into the style of play in the Premier League, as he is a flair player who is known for his vision, dribbling and technical ability.

Hughes’ seemingly imminent arrival means there will be six senior central midfielders on Watford’s books: Etienne Capoue, Abdoulaye Doucoure, Ben Watson, Cleverley, Behrami and Hughes.

However, Behrami is wanting a move away from London and Ben Watson has had his best days.

One big criticism repeatedly fired in Hughes’ direction is that he struggles in big games and you never notice him in such encounters, and generally that’s the case.

Therefore, if selected in the fixtures against the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool would he able to hold his own and give a stellar performance?

Also, if Watford are in a relegation fight this season, would Hughes be able to grind out the rough games where every point matters and not go missing like Leigh Griffiths’ hairline – which I am pretty sure was left back in England when he was playing for Wolves.

Whereas, you could argue that he has learnt how to grind out results in the Championship, where they say is more physical than the Premier League.


Bargain hunt

The eventual sale of Hughes from Derby to Watford came to shock to many Derby fans, because of how much a player of such hype and potential went for. In today’s market, £4.5 million is the equivalent of myself going to my local shop and buying a Freddo Chocolate Bar.

With Hughes being English and currently featuring for the England U21’s with over 150 games for Derby, you’d thought he would be worth double figures?

Once valued between £10 million to £15 million playing some of his best football, perhaps could have been the best time to sell him looking back. Hughes extended his contract until 2020 in January, as reported by BBC Sport, but the Ramsmidfielder hasn’t performed to the level he was expected to perform to this season, which may explain the £5m fee.

The underachievement this season and the notion that he hides in big games may have contributed to the £5m fee, and really Derby should have cashed in a year or two ago when there was genuine talk that £10m could have been offered.

Watford’s gain is Derby’s loss.

However, let’s hope that Hughes performs to the critics expectations and to those managers who have praised him over the years.

 

Written by Giovan Hayer

Follow Giovan on Twitter @GiovanH

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