Derby County confirmed on Saturday that Will Hughes has completed a move to Premier League side Watford. BBC Sport reports that the England Under-21 international has agreed a five year deal for a fee of £8million.
The Rams’ academy product made over 160 appearances for the senior side since his debut at just 16 years of age. A once prominent figure in the Derby starting-eleven, the confirmed transfer has left a divide amongst many Derby fans.
According to a poll carried out by the Derby Telegraph, 56% of 4.8k voting Rams fans did not think it was the correct decision to let the now 22-year -old depart Pride Park. With disgruntled fans taking to twitter to moan away, the main areas of criticism for the move appeared to be not the player in transit, but the money.
In 2013, there was speculation surrounding the Derby youngster with regards to a potential move to Liverpool for fees reported as high as £10 million by the Evening Standard. This has left many Derby fans questioning whether – in this high price market – Watford ‘stole’ Will Hughes, as new teammate Troy Deeney was quick to suggest on Twitter.
However, the Derby manager and Hughes’ statistics paint perhaps a different picture.
In an interview with the Derby Telegraph, Rams manager Gary Rowett suggested that Hughes had requested to leave the club once Watford had shown interest. Rowett described how Hughes told him that, after two difficult seasons, he felt he needed “a new challenge.”
Since his appointment in March, Rowett has regularly predicted a busy summer and spoke of how commitment would be a major factor in determining his Rams side for the 2017/18 campaign. It can therefore be understood why he would think differently to many Rams fans when deciding to cash in on Hughes.
Last season the midfielder picked up just two goals and four assists in 42 appearances, in all competitions for the Rams.
In a turbulent season for Derby, which saw four different managers, Hughes struggled for consistency, not just in performances, but also in starting appearances. He made only two starts, out of a possible nine, under the new Rowett regime.
Considering the financial fair play restrictions, and lacklustre performances, it can also be understood why Derby did not stand off with Watford to negotiate a higher fee for a player who struggled to gain a start for the new gaffer.
The 2017/18 season will be the first season in two that Derby enter with the same manager with which they ended the previous season. A dismal record of seven managers in five seasons makes it clear to see why the instability off the field at the club has been a major factor to the inconsistency on it.
It can also be suggested that this is why – according to SkyBet – the Rams still find themselves as a favourite to gain promotion from the Championship.
There are a handful of regular Derby names who have survived almost every regime since the initial Steve McLaren stint: Craig Bryson, Richard Keogh, Craig Forsyth, Thomas Ince, Darren Bent, George Thorne, Jamie Hanson, Chris Martin and Johnny Russell, to name a few.
Hughes was another who would have been on that list before Saturday’s news. Maybe it is time for Derby fans to question the players they hold so faithfully, rather than the managers who are out the door almost as quickly as they enter.
Rowett has promised change in both directions to the Derby squad. With the additions of Curtis Davis and Andre Wisdom, in addition to the the departures of Abdul Camara and Will Hughes, it can be expected that the Rams are far from the end of that transition. As Rowett suggested to the Derby Telegraph, when discussing the Hughes departure, “tough decisions have to be made”, and the fans will have to accept them.
Rowett was recently ranked as the 3rd best boss in the English Football League by FourFourTwo magazine. Perhaps Derby fans should trust his guidance in the Hughes deal and in future transfers.