Hughes: “We've Put Ourselves Back In The Mix”
By Kevin Affleck
Will Hughes is adament the Hornets have enough about them to stage a second push away from trouble and retain their Premier League status.
The midfielder felt many outsiders had written the team off before the home game against Manchester United. The team responded with three wins and a draw to put themselves back in contention. They have followed that up with two draws and two defeats from their next four, but they actually gained a point on Bournemouth over the weekend and Hughes feels it is all still to play for.
“We are in a decent position compared to where we were mid-December where everyone basically had us relegated,” he said on Added Time. “We've put ourselves back in the mix and it's only up from here. Everyone deserves credit to where we've come back from. We'll give it a right push in the last 12 games. The performances are there and the character is there as well. It's about getting those wins now.”
The result at Brighton felt like a defeat because of the late concession of a goal, but it might, just might, turn out at the end of the season to be a point gained.
“Me neither,” said Hughes when asked if it was a point gained or two dropped. “Looking at the last two results [Villa away, Everton at home], it might be a point gained but, at the same time, it's quite frustrating having lead again and losing a couple of points. It's away from home, at a tough ground and I thought we showed resilience in the last five, ten minutes to keep it 1-1.”
Adrian Mariappa scored the own goal that handed Brighton a point and you just had to see how the long-serving defender trudged off the field at full-time to gauge how disappointed he was about that moment.
“He's gutted, everyone's gutted,” said Hughes. “These things happen. It's just unfortunate. Everyone put their arm around him, but he's a seasoned professional and he'll get his head up. It's easy to say he could have dealt with it better but...he's had to try and clear it and it's unfortunate it's ended up in the net.”
Hughes put in a real shift from the base of midfield and was out on his feet by full-time in what was his first appearance since the win over Aston Villa in December.
“The body is aching, but it will do,” Hughes said. “I'm glad to be back out there. It's been frustrating as I was out longer than I would have liked.”
Hughes was terrific at Anfield and again against Manchester United so Nigel Pearson wasted no time in restoring him to his new role as a deep-lying midfielder once he was fully fit. The 24-year-old arrived from Derby with a reputation as a playmaker, was deployed last season on the right-hand side of midfield and now finds himself in what he feels is his best position.
“I'm enjoying it. It helps me being a bit deeper as I can see the pitch more,” said Hughes. “I like going around tackling people. When you have got players like Geri and Maxi on the wing, they can do all the playmaking so you've just got to give them the ball and let them do their magic. I can just do the basics. I've got a good relationship in there [with Capoue and Doucouré]. We have fantastic players on the bench too, with Nate and Clevs coming back. The competition is healthy.”