Watford fans are urging England boss Gareth Southgate to take a punt on youngster Will Hughes and make him a surprise selection for the World Cup squad in Russia this summer.
The 23-year-old attacking midfielder has had an up and down season, stricken with injury throughout this campaign, but has found form recently and may well deserve a spot.
With just 13 appearances for the Hornets this season and no senior international call ups to his name, it would be easy to dismiss Hughes, but he is everything this England set up is missing.
Hughes, despite ending up on the losing side in Tottenham’s 2-0 victory over Watford last week, put in a man of the match performance. From the get go, the young midfielder was running the show with exceptional passing and close ball control. He oozed class.
While he may not have the best goal scoring record, that isn’t just what his game is about. He has contributed three assists to his fellow Hornets this season, and has produced moments of magic out of nothing; something England may have to do this summer, as they will undoubtedly face some very strong sides.
The key battle which made it clear to me that Hughes was ready for his time to shine at international level was his fierce match up against fellow contender for England’s central midfielder role, Lewis Cook. The teams shared the points in the 2-2 draw at Vicarage Road, and man of the match, Will Hughes, ran rings around Cook and the Bournemouth defence.
Southgate will be hoping to take the strongest squad possible to Russia this summer, but injuries have hit his side hard in recent weeks.
With only Jordan Henderson, Dele Alli, Eric Dier midfield certs, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana looking like they’ll miss out through injury, there is room for one, or even two, wildcards.
Jake Livermore has received call-ups in recent times, but with his side facing Premier League relegation, it would be an odd choice. Cook, Jesse Lingard and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all playing well could see them get a spot on the plane. Jack Wilshere and Jonjo Shelvey are always in contention, too.
So, why not Will Hughes?
It isn’t just the Watford faithful pushing for the rising star to get a seat on the plane to Russia – Derby County fans know better than anyone what Hughes is capable of.
Hughes came through the Derby academy, before making his senior debut for the club in November 2011. He went on to make 165 appearances for the Rams in his six year stint at Pride Park.
Highly regarded as one of the best products to ever come out of the Derby youth system, the Rams fans are also calling for the youngster to make his debut for England. That £8m spent on him will be slowly feeling more like a bargain for the Hornets.
Hughes is not short of experience when it comes to international level football, either. Already having played for England Under-17 and Under-21, he would bring a little bit of knowhow with him.
The midfielder made his debut for the England Under-21 squad in November 2012, aged just 17 – becoming the second youngest player ever to play at that level behind Theo Walcott – and has since gone on to make 22 appearances for the side.
A positive for Hughes is that he is not a stranger to the England boss. The pair have worked together during Southgate’s three-year stint in charge of the England Under-21 side.
Despite his lack of game time, Hughes has been Watford’s stand out player each and every time he takes to the field.
In a midfield with the likes of Abdoulaye Doucoure, who has received interest from Manchester United amongst others, it is testament to the youngster that he can not only hold his own, but stake his claim to be in Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad this summer.