Will Hughes is closer to getting back to his best after he managed to get another ninety minutes under his belt for Derby in their 1-1 draw against promotion chasing Brighton on Monday.
The highly-rated midfielder, who made his debut for Derby at just 17, has long been touted as one of the next big things in English football, and he has already made over 120 Championship appearances for the Rams.
However this season has seemingly been a write-off for the youngster, having suffered a serious knee injury in the Rams’ opening day fixture against Bolton Wanderers, one that would require anterior cruciate ligament surgery and has meant he has missed virtually all of Derby’s regular season.
But the England Under-21 international took another step forward on the road to recovery on Monday and could be a huge boost for Derby as they look to gain promotion via the play-offs.
Hughes not only managed to play the full ninety minutes, but he also put in an excellent performance. Solid alongside George Thorne at the heart of midfield, he was key to everything good that Derby had to offer at the Amex, and capped his performance with an assist for Andreas Weimann’s opener.
And Hughes told Rams Player HD that he is now enjoying his football again after a difficult spell on the sidelines.
“It’s difficult to replicate football for the first team until you’re back in that situation. It’s a different kind of game, but I felt good and I’m enjoying my football again after eight months out.
“I’m still fighting for my place in the team and hopefully today will have helped that.
“We have still got Jeff (Hendrick) and Bradley (Johnson) coming back, [and] Butts (Jacob Butterfield) on the substitutes bench today.”
“There is strength in depth here at Derby, especially in that midfield area, so I am going to have to be switched on and just try and keep performing well.”
With Hughes on the verge of returning to top form, he could be vitally important as the Rams look to secure promotion to the Premier League.
The East Midlands side almost went up via the playoffs in 2014, a game that Hughes himself featured in, however they were denied a return to the top flight by a late Bobby Zamora goal.
With Hughes back in the side, Derby will hope they can push on and go the distance this time.