Exec Departure Lounge – Will Hughes
When John Percy broke the story that Will Hughes was on the verge of joining (fucking) Watford a week or so ago, my immediate reaction was surely not. However, when John breaks DCFC stories they invariably come to pass, so I feared the worst.
Kevin Philips all but confirmed the deal was done on Friday and it was formally confirmed yesterday, leading to a predictable and understandable outpouring of emotion from Rams fans.
The phrase “one of our own” is overused in football but when a player lives with his mum on your estate (before he moved over Duffield way) gets his hair cut at the end of your street and regularly speaks to your son in the local shop it’s a bit more appropriate than some 16-year-old you parachuted in from Portugal or Ireland or maybe bought from Colchester for £80k to replace the local lads who have been in the Academy since they were 7.
I loved Hughesey and everything about him. A fantastic footballer but a proper player with genuine technical ability who could do things most other players can’t do. I read an article once where a bass player (Edgar Summertyme/Jones if you are interested) said if he goes to a gig he wants to see people on the stage doing things he can’t do. Then he would go home and practice it until he could. Anyone can practice to be a modern box to box energy merchant who “likes a tackle”, just run up and down your garden all afternoon and occasionally karate kick a dustbin. I’m not even sure it’s possible to learn to do some of the things Will Hughes has naturally been doing on a football pitch all his life.
The other thing about Will was that he cared. His desire to do well for Derby, his obvious love of playing football (remember he played a lot of last season with a broken hand!)and his will to win in some pretty dark days since Wembley, have shone like a beacon in a fog of overpaid mediocrity.
So as gutting as this sale was, is it the right thing to do?
For Will himself, I would say it’s a good move. No one can say he hasn’t done his time at Derby and, having recently lost a year to injury, the time is right for him to test himself on a bigger stage. I think if you were thinking of teams Will may leave Derby for, I don’t think many Rams fans would have come up with fucking Watford!! However, for Will this again makes sense. He has constantly said he just wants to play and has no wish to sit on a bench anywhere plus, if he does well, there is plenty of scope to step up another level again to an Everton, Southampton or Newcastle or maybe even his beloved Liverpool.
For Derby, the jury is out. Whilst most Derby fans wouldn’t be that bothered if any of the current squad left, Hughesey is probably the only one where I think we all hoped Rowett would find a spot for him. Also in a team that already lacks creativity, there is now a massive onus on Ince who himself could also be on the move before the season starts. Will’s tackling ability is massively underrated and I just don’t buy there isn’t a place for him in our new team, whatever the shape and philosophy is going to be. That said if money is on the table and we have other things we can now do (and don’t forget its highly likely Will wanted the move), then maybe it just had to be done.
The fee for the deal has caused much consternation but I don’t think we should get too hung up on this. When we played so hardball to get £10.5m for Jeff and Forest got a reported £13.5m for Burke then its normal that £5m plus add-ons to £9m is going to cause outrage for a player clearly better than both of those two. That said, I am certain that MM will not have been had over on this one, so here’s a few things to consider in a deal of this nature.
The price will have come down a little to achieve the 15% sell on clause, the Pozzo family are no mugs in the transfer market so make no mistake they will already be looking at re-sale value on Will. For just a £5m initial fee, I would guess DCFC will be seeing most, if not all, of that immediately. This in turn strengthens Rowett’s hand to move quicker on his targets. Will has had a cruciate knee injury, so it’s fair enough for (fucking) Watford to not want to go too big too soon. On that basis, I would say the add-ons will be very realistic and achievable and will be based on appearances for Watford as opposed to 50 caps for England. I expect us to see all this money. I would also assume we still owe them a chunk of change for Vyds and Anya so don’t be surprised if there has been some offset or at least relaxing of payment terms on that debt as well.
As gut wrenching as this is, I think we are all agreed that this DCFC squad needs ripping up and re-shaping. GR’s business thus far and his track record with transfers at Birmingham suggests he knows his way around the market. So I think we just need to hold our nerve, keep the faith and see what we look like come August.
In the meantime, best of luck Will, it’s been an absolute pleasure.