Will Hughes makes honest Patrick Vieira admission and sends message to former club Derby

Will Hughes says he is loving his time at Crystal Palace so far and that he’s benefitting greatly from the tutelage of midfield legend Patrick Vieira.

The 26-year-old arrived at Selhurst Park over the summer and had to wait patiently before making his mark on the team, forcing his way into the starting XI at the end of 2021 and staying put since.

Hughes said that Vieira, who was recently nominated for Manager of the Year at the London Football Awards, had helped him understand his position in midfield better and that it had been a ‘pleasure’ taking advice from one of the game’s all-time greats.

The Englishman also picked up on Vieira’s open-door policy that allowed players to ask for advice or speak to him whenever they wanted – a trick that Leeds United star Jack Harrison commented on when he worked under Vieira at New York City.

Asked how much he had learned from the World Cup winner since joining the club in August, Hughes said: “A lot, even more so in that midfield position. Look at the career he’s had – he has won almost anything.

“Any little snippets I can get from him, he is more than happy to let the players in his office to ask him anything that you need. That has been a big help.

“He’s cool and calculated, but if he needs to tell you to do something, he won’t hesitate to do it.

“He has got that aura about him – he has got that respect that just comes naturally. It has been a pleasure working under him.”

Hughes has been asked to play in a more defensive role in Vieira’s 4-3-3 system of late but has taken to the challenge well, keeping things ticking over in midfield while players like Conor Gallagher can push forward ahead of him.

That’s not always the role Hughes has played at previous clubs. At both Derby and Watford, he was often utilised further forward to try and break the defensive lines and was known for being a skilful player happy to roam up the pitch when needed.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Will Hughes of Crystal Palace looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Norwich City at Selhurst Park on December 28, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Crystal Palace midfielder Will Hughes

Reflecting on how his role has differed at Palace, he added: “Throughout the years, I have had to deal with that and adapted my game to a more defensive-minded player – playing at the bottom of a three in midfield or the holding midfield.

“I have definitely adapted. You have to adapt to get into teams. When I went to Watford, I was playing with some excellent players in my position that I couldn’t get near, so I had to adapt, and likewise here.

“Preferably, I would prefer to play as a number six, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy playing further forward as well, because I do, and I am capable of doing that as well.”

Hughes joined Derby County as a first-year scholar back in 2011 and made his debut for the first team later, going on to play 187 times for them and scoring 20 goals before joining Watford in 2017.

The Rams are currently in financial trouble, going into administration last year and being docked points in the Championship and being placed under a transfer embargo as a result.

“It’s not been nice, and I don’t think it’s been nice for football fans in general to see it,” said Hughes.

“If you take rivalry aside, you wouldn’t wish it on your worst rival because that’s part of football, and that’s what fans love.

“You want to see your rivals struggle in terms of league position and losing games, but never to cease to exist. I have seen a real sense of the football community come together in support of Derby. Hopefully, they can get out of this trouble that they’re in.”

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