SAM HUGHES is ready to seize his chance at Leicester City as he continues to impress following his summer move from Chester.
The 20-year-old, who hails from West Kirby, came through the ranks at Chester’s academy before producing a host of excellent performances last season which alerted the attentions of the 2015-16 Premier League champions, who paid around £125,000 for his services plus add-ons when snapping him up in the close season.
Leicester have since appointed Claude Puel as their first-team manager and with Hughes, captain of their table-topping Under 23s side, catching the eye of the club’s coaches, the possibility of a first-team appearance before the end of the current campaign is not out of the question.
“I’m enjoying it at Leicester, we’ve made a good start and are doing well as a team,” said Hughes, speaking ahead of Chester’s crucial National League fixture against Hartlepool United tomorrow (3pm) at the Deva where striker Ross Hannah could again miss out through injury.
“We’ve gone 17 games unbeaten and we’re beating some decent teams in the process, and playing some good football. I’m having a good time, enjoying my football and I’ve just got to push on now, take that next step and see where it gets me. I need to take my chance when it comes.
“It’s same for any young lads, it’s difficult to break in. My main aim at Chester was to try and make it playing week-in-week-out and I’ve got to make the small steps first at Leicester, hit the targets I’ve got and keep trying to play well.
“Football is a funny game and we can be playing Under 23s and the next you can be in the first-team starting XI.
“From a development (point of view) and moving forward the club will make a decision on what they think is best for me, whether that be a loan move or staying in the Under 23s, or whatever it may be. I’ll know a bit more on that front in the next couple of weeks.”
Hughes, who hit a last-gasp winner to defeat Liverpool 2-1 in a Development League clash with Liverpool, has already had a taste of what Premier League football can be about having come up against the likes of Danny Ings and Everton winger Yannick Bolasie.
“The Under 23s League is a bit underestimated from certain people in the game,” he continued. “It’s a tough league, there’s good players playing and it’s difficult you go from senior football to development, you’ve got to adapt to the technical side of it but I feel I’ve coped with that quite well.
“When players like Bolasie, Danny Ings, Dominic Solanke come up against you, it’s good for the likes of myself getting tested against these players because ultimately that’s my end goal and hopefully one day I’ll be playing against them every week.”
Hughes was a guest of Chester for their Boxing Day clash with Guiseley, the first time he had the chance to return to the club since he left, and he explained how he wished he could have pulled his boots on to help the team in their current plight, lying third bottom in the table.
“We had three days off over Christmas so I thought I’d pop down and see the lads, it’s the first time I’ve been back believe it or not since I left,” he said.
“The club asked me to come down, have some food and then watch the lads, if I was still signed on I’d have brought my boots! I’m sure everyone knows there’s nothing more I’d wish than to be out there playing but it is what it is. I’ll have to sit tight and watch the lads.”
Asked if playing for 18 months in the National League enabled him to get a good grounding in senior football, Hughes replied: “Definitely, 100 per cent. It’s what any young lads should aim to do.
“You need to play senior football because at the end of the day you’re going to come to that bracket at some stage where you need to play men’s football.
“Chester, I have said many times, helped me massively, it’s quite incredible what they’ve done for me as a club, the previous managers who let me play and gave me the opportunity every young lad should be given if they’ve got the quality.
“Everyone here has played a massive part in supporting me, the fans, Calum (McIntyre, academy head coach), managers, I’m very grateful for that.”