This interview was originally published in the Palace v Manchester City programme. You can purchase 21/22 programmes by clicking here.
Will Hughes does old school football well. He does of a central-midfielder what every fan wants: crunching challenges, 90 minutes’ running, jeering the opposition crowd and celebrating – immediately – with his own.
He shuns social media, rarely plays the trick-heavy style easily within his repertoire and conducts himself engagingly but without fanfare in the press.
Paradoxically Hughes’ style is compared – by himself and others – to Spanish entertainers like Andrés Iniesta and Xavi. He was linked with the biggest names in world football, Barcelona included, by the national papers aged 17, when his professional career began to flourish. He was competitive, too, at a number of sports and had to single-mindedly prioritise his football career at a young age.
Combined, Hughes’ experience contains all the ingredients for an existence unlike his own: luxury football, weekly headlines and, perhaps, a little outward overconfidence.
None of those are true of the now-26-year-old, and it doesn’t take much backstory to see why.