BAD BREAK FOR THE BAGGIES
By Ciaran Baynes
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The ginger-haired super-striker is West BromÇÖs leading scorer by a mile this season with 13 goals to his name. Following the departure of star winger Kevin Kilbane (Sunderland) and midfield ace Enzo Maresca (Juventus) last year, Hughes has notched up an amazing 10 additional strikes more than any other member of the current BaggiesÇÖ squad, underlining the importance of the pint-sized wonder to the Hawthorns outfit.
Despite taking points off promotion candidates Ipswich and Barnsley in successive games, West Brom are still anything but safe lying just two points ahead of third-bottom Walsall. Without the highly-rated Hughes, the job of finding the net lies almost entirely on the shoulders of legendary Albion hit-man Bob Taylor, who Megson brought back to The Hawthorns on deadline day, as The Baggies fight to avoid the drop to Division Two.
Hughes has smacked in 57 shots on target this campaign - a whopping 45 more than any other BaggiesÇÖ player - and despite the 23-year oldÇÖs massive contribution to his team, only bottom club Swindon have scored fewer than AlbionÇÖs miserable tally of 34, while West BromÇÖs goals to shots ratio of 9% is the lowest in the division.
After a disappointing first half to the campaign the former Kidderminster striker was hitting his best form of the season and had netted four of his last six efforts on goal before the fateful collision with Ipswich Çÿkeeper Richard Wright nearly two weeks ago.
However, the cracked tibia Hughes suffered may have also broken West BromÇÖs chances of staying up.
Hughes has been the centre of massive transfer speculation over the past two seasons after becoming the countryÇÖs leading goal-scorer last year with a tremendous haul of 32 goals, but this injury would seemingly curb any potential summer move to the big time.
It is clear why the 23-year-old striker is so sought-after when you consider his support play along with the clinical finishing. This season Hughes has created 16 goal-scoring opportunities for his team-mates (although only two have been converted), while the BaggiesÇÖ striker has also whipped in over 50 crosses from either flank.
Without the talent of the carrot-topped assassin, Albion will be struggling to retain their first division status. Megson certainly wonÇÖt be keen to make such a swift return to Division Two - especially after being dismissed by Stoke just four months into this season - but the absence of Hughes may just take matters out of the former Stockport supremoÇÖs hands.