Generation Next is our regular feature on Just Football profiling the best young talents in the world. And here’s another to keep an eye on – Atalanta’s bustling midfielder Franck Kessie… Last summer, when Genoa former coach Gian Piero Gasperini made the move to Atalanta, after seven wonderful years spent in Liguria (interjected by spells […]
The West Kirby-born 19-year-old is having a stellar season in the National League at Chester, making 19 appearances in the fifth tier of English football.
His performances at centre-back have prompted clubs up to Championship level to take a look at him, and Aston Villa were among those in attendance as Chester FC took on Liverpool Under-23s in a friendly on Tuesday.
— Chronicle: ChesterFC (@ChesterFC_Chron) December 20, 2016
Originally a midfielder, Hughes has been moved to centre-back in 2016/17, winning praise for his performances from Chester boss Jon McCarthy – who once played for Villa’s city rivals Birmingham City.
“Sam is a real threat and he heads anything everywhere,” McCarthy enthused after Hughes scored the winner against Braintree Town in a 1-0 win back in September. “He always seems to get himself on the end of crosses and touches.”
“His hard work and ability to make an impact always puts a thought in my mind to have Sam in the team, but there are other elements to his game.”
Hughes came through Chester’s academy system as a midfielder before being converted to central defence, and can also play at right-back. “I think centre half is a good fit for me,” the teenager commented earlier this season.
After spending time on loan at Witton Albion last season Hughes impressed enough breaking through in 2015/16 to have his contracted extended until the end of 2016/17.
The Aston Villa target is part of a team challenging for a playoff place for promotion to the Football League this season. After 25 games Chester are 7th, six points off the playoffs. Out of contract in 2017, clubs may look to take advantage of his contract situation to snare him on the cheap.
Teenager Hughes played 45 minutes in the 2-1 defeat to Liverpool U23s, pitting his wits against the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Seyi Ojo and Ben Woodburn, now Liverpool’s all-time youngest goalscorer, in a 2-1 defeat.
“The future is really bright for Sam,” former Chester boss Steve Burr commented in March.