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Hughes relishing Wales clash

Derby midfielder Will Hughes is sure it will be "fairly strange" playing at his club's home ground for England Under-21s this week, but is relishing the prospect.

Last Updated: 04/03/14 at 21:40 Post Comment

Will Hughes: On home turf on Wednesday

Will Hughes: On home turf on Wednesday

The highly-rated 18-year-old, who in the last couple of seasons has emerged from the Rams' youth ranks to become a first-team regular, is set to be the centre of attention on Wednesday when the Young Lions face Wales Under-21s in a 2015 European Championship qualifier at the iPro Stadium (kick-off 6pm).

And he said: "It will be fairly strange in a way, with it being my home ground.

"But it means I will be used to it, and hopefully I will get a good reception. I think I'm more looking forward to it than feeling nervous.

"You have to expect attention when you are playing at your home ground in front of the crowd. But I don't think there's too much pressure really."

While the familiar surroundings may well help Hughes in terms of his performance on Wednesday, he is already feeling very much settled at international under-21 level.

He has six caps to his name to date, and netted his first goal for the Young Lions in their last match, a 9-0 win over San Marino in a qualifier in November.

"It is still a bit surreal that I'm involved in the set-up at such an early age," Hughes said.

"But the more I play for them, the more I get used to it.

"It was nice to get a first competitive start last time, and to grab a goal was a good achievement.

"I think everything is settling down a bit - things are becoming a bit more organised with what I'm doing now, in that I am playing regularly for Derby and getting picked regularly for the Under-21s. I'm getting used to it all.

"You look at the sort of players I am training with and playing with and it is only going to benefit me in terms of trying to learn from them.

"Some of them have been playing week in, week out in the Premier League, so that is only going to help me."

Another player currently with Sky Bet Championship promotion-chasers Derby and poised to feature against Wales is on-loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford.

The 20-year-old has impressed for the Rams since joining them in January, scoring five times so far.

And England Under-21s boss Gareth Southgate has little doubt both Bamford and Hughes will shine under the spotlight on Wednesday - although he does feel the latter, who has been linked with various Premier League clubs, needs a degree of "protection" as his rapid rise continues.

Southgate said: "Everything I have seen so far from them suggests they will thrive on Wednesday.

"Will is Derby's own player and his personality comes out on the field.

"He has a smile on his face during games, which is something I couldn't do at that age, and he is very mature.

"Really, I think the only concern with Will is that we feel we need to protect him a bit.

"He has had a lot of football with his club and is the youngest in our group, so we have to manage his training load and his match time.

"But his potential is very high."

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