With the transfer window now upon us, we’re all hoping for some big signings to bolster Alex Neil’s squad.
If we’re being brutally honest, recent summer windows haven’t exactly been great. 2014 saw Andy Little, Kyel Reid and Jamie Jones arrive. In 2015, it was Stevie May and Will Keane. 2016 brought the nightmare of Ben Pringle, Eoin Doyle and Marnick Vermijl, the latter two inexplicably signed permanently.
2017 was a quiet one, with few additions to the squad. Last summer, Graham Burke left many hoping for no more signings from Ireland. If ever there was a time for North End to have a strong summer, it’s this one.
Yet North End are still finding some bargain gems, some of which are going under-appreciated even now. No players sums that up quite like Andrew Hughes.
Preston paid just £200,000 to land the Welshman from Peterborough United, signing him to replace Greg Cunningham. Raking in millions for Cunningham and spending a small fee on Hughes seemed like the cheap option, but in time, it’s paid off.
Hughes had ups and downs in the first half of the season, we won’t pretend otherwise. Yet in 2019, Hughes really stepped up, turning in some hugely impressive displays.
He’s big and strong, good in the air, gets forward well and even poses a threat from set pieces. North End went 12 unbeaten with Hughes at his best, then one just one in eight after Hughes suffered a season-ending injury.
Another left back may come in this summer, but it’s Hughes’ spot to lose now. He’s about to turn 27, entering the real prime of his career, and having been solid and dependable this year, we can expect to see him in a key role next season too.
Let’s not forget the reaction when we signed Hughes either. Preston fans seemed underwhelmed, especially when Peterborough owner Darragh MacAnthony chimed in. He suggested on Twitter that Hughes wouldn’t have even been their first-choice left back, backing Colin Daniel over him.
I haven't sold Gwion. Leo was replaced with 3 CMS, Hughesy wasn't going to be 1st choice LB with Daniels signing and had 1 year left so was good business. Think you need to calm down. https://t.co/jCvWWiGZ39
— Darragh MacAnthony (@DMAC102) June 22, 2018
Daniel left Peterborough for Burton Albion in January. Tyler Denton offered little at left back before returning to Leeds, and the Posh today signed Dan Butler. It’s clear that they’ve struggled to replace Hughes, making MacAnthony’s comments even stranger.
If North End can unearth more bargain additions like Hughes, then they’ll be in a great place. Jordan Storey and Ryan Ledson may go on to be stars, but right now, Hughes is the pick of the 2018 signings, with much more to come.