Will Hughes signs for Watford: The lowdown on our first summer signing

25/06/2017 19:33

(Action Images, via Reuters)

Watford secured their first summer signing at the weekend, completing a deal for Derby County and England U21 international Will Hughes.

The Hornets will pay £4.5m according to reports for the midfielder, with the fee potentially rising to £8m.

In six years with Derby, Hughes proved himself to be a crucial player, making 187 appearances in all competitions, scoring 12 times.

He won the club's Player-of-the-Season award at the end of the 2014/15 campaign and was also selected in the Championship's Team-of-the-Year the season beforehand.

The 22-year-old is currently away on international with England's Under 21 team at the European Championships, but he will link up with Marco Silva's men upon his return.

Hughes has always been a player who has impressed me when I've seen him play and has been a player knocking on the door for a move to the Premier League for some time now.

A player with great technicality, Hughes has great feet and an eye for a pass, establishing himself as one of the Championship's brightest young talents. From what I've seen, he also has a great work ethic and isn't afraid to get stuck in either. It says a lot that he was linked with a £15m move to Liverpool a couple of years ago.

However, to get the lowdown and an expert opinion on the Hornets' new signing, I caught up with the chaps from the Derby County Podcast (Twitter - @dcfcpodcast). Here's what they had to say:


Watford FC Blog: What type of player is Will Hughes? What is his favoured position?

Derby County Podcast (DCP): "Hughes is a technical ball playing creative midfielder. His best position is in the centre of midfield and is at his most influential with the ball."


What are his main strengths? Anything he needs to work on?

DCP: "His technical ability stands out and the way in which he reads the game is also impressive. He has a creative brain and his weight of pass is superb. He has a wonderful ability to control and run games and his tackling is somewhat underrated.

"In regards to what he needs to work on, he isn't particularly physical and he's quite slight in build so can be overrun at times. His goal tally should be better, but at times with Derby he's played more centrally than further forward."


Derby fans seem disappointed to see Hughes leave Pride Park. How important has he been for the Rams in recent years?

DCP: "Fans are disappointed because he has been one of our best players over recent years and is probably the best player that the academy has produced. He's been key at times but his form was patchy throughout last season, which wasn't helped by a constant carousel of managers and he spent the previous season out with a knee injury."


I have to admit, I was surprised to hear that Gary Rowett was prepared to let Hughes go. Would Derby fans have liked to have seen him remain and are they happy with the fee?

DCP: "Hughes was looking for a new challenge, Rowett is in need of funds to strengthen the squad and Hughes can obviously command a decent fee. It sort of all fell in to place. Make no mistake, we're disappointed to
see him go but there's an argument to say that it had gone a bit stale for Hughes at Derby, so I think the move probably suits everybody.

"The fee has disappointed some and it was expected that the club would get a higher fee up front. Fact is though, there seemed to be only one club in for Hughes. The ideal situation is that two or three are interested and the club can start a bidding war, but that wasn't to be and probably says more about Hughes' standing outside Derby than anything. I actually think the fee is fair and the sell on clause was an absolute must because he has the potential to improve and move on."


I've heard a few comments that Hughes has struggled since picking up a serious injury at the start of the 15/16 season. Would that be something you'd agree with?

DCP - "Hughes struggled for form and consistency last season. To my mind this was down to the continuous changing of manager at the club, which in turn lead to different styles/philosophies etc. Hughes became a victim of that."


Hughes has been touted as a talented young midfielder for some time now. Could he make the successful step up to the Premier League?

DCP: "He should do. He's proved himself in the Championship over the past four seasons and was widely regarded as one of the best midfielders outside of the Premier League. He deserves his chance and it's quite possible that the Premier League will suit his style more so than that of the Championship. It'll certainly be interesting to see how he develops."

Hughes has been linked with a £15m move to Liverpool in recent seasons. If he performs well for Watford, could you see bigger clubs coming in for him?

DCP: "Of course. He's 22, has plenty of potential, but he's untried in the Premier League and that was perhaps why some clubs were put off. Providing he has a good season, he's an outside bet to make it into the England squad for the World Cup. He was a player identified at under 21 level as one who could make the step up and now he's playing in the Premier League he'll have the stage to showcase his skills. Should that happen, then there's no reason why a bigger club wouldn't come in for him."

Thanks ever so much to the chaps from the Derby County Podcast for answering my questions!

In the meantime, welcome to Watford, Will!