Hughes is considered one of the best English prospects outside the Premier League, and his performances over the past three seasons have seen Liverpool attempt to move for him.
However the 19-year-old signed a new contract with the Rams over the summer, and he is keen to see his hometown club win promotion to the top flight with him in the centre of midfield - something that is looking increasingly likely this season. The Midlands side sit three points clear at the top of the table, and should they win this weekend, they could create a six-foot gap dependent on results elsewhere.
Attempting to stop their ascension to the top flight this weekend are Leeds United, themselves likely to drop into the relegation zone should they fall to defeat. Performances have improved since the appointment of Neil Redfearn as full-time head coach, but results are still not forthcoming, and a tie with high-flying Derby could prove to be too much of a challenge - regardless of it being played at Elland Road.
Despite poor performances as a team, Redfearn has uncovered some standout performers in the Whites’ ranks, with Alex Mowatt taking the claim as the most talented of the lot. Mowatt, also 19-years-old, progressed through the academy system at Thorpe Arch, making 29 appearances and scoring one goal last season - doing enough to be named Leeds’s Young Player of the Year.
He has further progressed to become a key part of Redfearn’s plans this term, playing 12 of the Whites’ 18 fixtures, and already registering a tally of four strikes to his name. He is set to start opposite Hughes at the weekend, and both youngsters will be looking to put in a game winning performance.
|Team||Appearances||Mins Played||Mins per Goal||Mins per Assist||Mins per Key Pass|
Both men have been impressive in the offensive third this season, with Mowatt leading the scoring tally with four goals to Hughes’s two. However, the Leeds man has yet to register an assist this season - not for lack of trying, with his total of 20 key passes being played at a faster rate than Hughes - and his teammates should take some of the blame for that, with goals hard to come by for Leeds. Hughes has two assists to his name, but he plays a key pass three minutes less often than Mowatt.
Whilst these statistics are the ones that win games, both Hughes and Mowatt often have an influence in other parts of the game, and Hughes especially has been praised for his ability to control a game from deep - whilst his teammates do the more flashy work following his command. This doesn’t translate well to statistics, but it is clear that Hughes does have a footballing brain when assessing his pass and touch numbers.
|Passes per Game||Passing Accuracy||Touches per Game|
Surprisingly, Hughes touches the ball less often than Mowatt, but he is far more accomplished and efficient with his use of the ball, completing more passes per game than the Leeds man, with a higher accuracy percentage. With Mowatt less experienced than Hughes that is not a surprise, and it is good to see he is actively attempting to have as much of the ball as possible to improve himself.
Both Mowatt and Hughes have been two of the best performing midfielders in the Championship this season, despite their young age. Both have featured for England at various youth levels - with Hughes an Under-21 international, and Mowatt starting to receive recognition at Under-20 - and it promises a bright future for the Three Lions if the duo continue to develop into two of the finest central midfielders this country has ever seen.