As the season has progressed more and more of the footballing world have became aware of one particular talent emerging from Derby County, that is of course 17 year old Will Hughes.
We say it all the time but he doesn’t appear to reflect his age when he performs. January is fast approaching and I can only hope that he remains a Derby County player at the end of it, he is a very important player in the progression of the team. If he moves on too soon it could potentially do his career more harm than good, sitting on a Premier League bench or playing every week in the Championship? I do believe he will move on one day but I’d like to think that won’t happen just yet, by staying put he’ll have a chance to continue his fantastic development.
At the back end of last season Will Hughes made two further appearances to add to his debut as a sub back in November of 2011. With fellow midfielder Paul Green about to leave the club, after rejecting a contract offer, Rams boss Nigel Clough opted to bring Hughes into the first team scene. He came on as a sub in the penultimate game of the campaign against Portsmouth and then earned a start for the final match of the season against Peterborough. His full debut was met with plenty of praise after what was a very good debut, particularly for somebody who’d just turned 17 at the time. The end of the season also saw him win the club’s Scholar of the Year award.
Hughes featured heavily in the Rams’ pre-season campaign, suggesting he could well be much more involved in the first team squad – which was exactly what happened. The season began with him starting, against Scunthorpe in a Capital One Cup tie. He was substituted early before the game took a turn for the worse for Derby. Many more supporters were aware of his excellent talent by now and it came as no surprise he started the first league game of the season, however he began in a wide role so Nigel Clough could accommodate the central midfield pairing of Craig Bryson and Jeff Hendrick. As the season progressed Will has looked more at home in quite a physical league, where there’s plenty of tough opponents that can often throw a spanner in the works for many slender physicked youngsters. On numerous occasions the England under-21 international has been forced to start from the wing but does drift in to the central midfield role, where I believe he has more of an impact. He is also quite effective in a position just off the striker, where he has played for the club’s youth side over the past couple of years.
It didn’t take take the midfielder to grab his first senior goal, it came on 1 September in a 5-1 thrashing of Gianfranco Zola’s Watford.
In October the Rams sealed a new contract with the highly rated midfielder that stretches to the summer of 2015. Nigel Clough voiced his delight at the deal“We want to try to keep our best young players at the club as long as we can and Will certainly fits into that category.We have seen an awful lot of players – and I don’t think Will falls into this category – go off the rails or whatever at a young age but this contract is not about money, it is about playing football and that’s the nice thing. If he gets the next two years right, everything else will follow.”
His second Rams goal came on 2 November in a 2-1 defeat at The Den. That goal, a stunning 20 yard drive, put Derby on level terms but failed to keep that – Milwall hit back with a winner, just 15 minutes from time.
Last month he became the second youngest player to ever represent England at under-21 level, aged just 17 and 220 days old at the time of winning his cap and just 68 days behind Theo Walcott when he won his cap. He came on as a 66th minute in their 2-0 victory over Northern Ireland at Blackpool, making Derby County very proud.
Rumours, as they have been all season, continued to fly around about the young talent. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool have all been linked with him, with some clubs continually tracking his progress and sending scouts to watch him in action. If you believe the Daily Mirror, Spanish giants Barcelona are also tracking him.
In a recent game against Leeds United, Hughes was once again the star of the show. The Rams beat old foes Leeds 3-1, the game deservedly see Will Hughes win the man of the match award.
What he said…
“I am loving every minute in the first-team and it has been an amazing last few months. First and foremost, I love playing football and I’ve been given a great opportunity here by the manager and his staff. I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me but I’m fully committed to getting my head down, working hard and continuing to improve my game. It may be a little bit of a cliche but it really is a dream come true for me and I’m grateful for being given this chance.”
What they said…
England under-21 boss Stuart Pearce: “Will’s technically a very sound player and he played very well when he came on for his under-21 debut at Blackpool. He settled in well and was very comfortable on the ball at such a young age. He rarely gave the ball away in training or in the game, which is vitally important at international level. I’ve been getting some great feedback about Will from Nigel at Derby and he’s progressing really well in the Championship. He’s playing games regularly, which is fantastic for such a young player, and he can be pleased with how he is performing.Nigel has always given young players a chance. He sees their potential as footballers and he isn’t afraid to put them in the first team, and he’s done this with Will. Hopefully, he can continue developing for Derby and England in the future.”
Derby’s Academy boss Darren Wassall: “To be an ever-present in the side this season at the age of 17 is a huge accolade and everyone at the club is delighted for him. We just hope his good form continues. The ethos of the club is to produce young players for the first team. The fact that Will is in the first team at 17 and has earned his place on merit is a great fillip for everybody. Hopefully, he will spur on the other young players at the club and be an inspiration to them. As an Academy, we’re here to try to produce young players to play at the highest level possible. The youth team players are watching Will at Pride Park on a regular basis now and it’s certainly a positive that one of our own is doing so well.”
The Rams’ manager Nigel Clough: “There are not too many players like him around at the moment. He has good technique, a good touch, and to be as composed as he is out there in the hurly burly of the Championship game, he will attract attention. I think a few of the big boys are watching him which is a great compliment to him and the academy lads, but if they are we will do everything we can to hang on to him”