SO Chester’s Sam Hughes has become the latest in a growing line of Non-League starlets to catch the attention of a Premier League club.
In Hughes’ case, the fact that he has been snapped up by Leicester City gives the story an extra feel of the ‘Cinderellas’ because, of course, the Foxes were the club that took a punt on Jamie Vardy back in 2013.
Nigel Pearson’s side were playing in the Championship then, but Vardy has gone on to become the pin-up boy for Non-League, illustrating how a club dipping into the lower leagues can bring great success at even greater value.
Hughes has joined for an undisclosed fee, although I’d imagine it’s not much more than the £130,000 Leicester are paying Chester in compensation to get him out of his contract.
For a manager, in this case Craig Shakespeare, it’s a move that has far more going for it than against it, and there’s not much egg that can land on one’s face.
Firstly, the Leicester boss will know exactly what he is getting: a hard-nosed defender who was given the captain’s armband at the Deva at the age of just 19. Character? He’ll have plenty of that. Ambition? There will be dreams of going all the way. Determination? How do you think he has got to where he is now?
Secondly, the fee will not have the chairman getting twitchy in the boardroom, even if the player doesn’t fulfill his potential. The bean counters will hardly bat an eyelid.
The number of players making the jump to the Championship and Premier League has left many in Non-League wondering why the same isn’t happening with managers. Just like the players, there is a lot of talent managing down here.
The NLP’s Sam Elliott is a strong advocate for more managers in Non-League being given a shot further up the ladder.
But there is a clear difference between players and managers getting their chance: players can develop and become better; managers have to hit the deck running and the responsibility they are given is too big for a chairman to make an appointment with the same, somewhat carefree, approach.
For example, Hughes will go into the development squad at Leicester. He will be guided by more senior players and follow the lead of model professionals.
A manager isn’t afforded this luxury; he has to be direct, be the figurehead and instantly win the support of the dressing room.
It only takes a couple of bad eggs to make his job even harder and before you know it, a promising young gaffer can be discarded on the scrapheap. A reputation in ruins, it’s a long road back that many won’t even try to walk.
One of the questions I am often asked about the Cowley brothers is whether or not they will stay at Lincoln. There have been various rumours of Championship clubs showing an interest.
My answer is always the same: I hope so. I hope they stay and learn more at Sincil Bank. I hope they build for their own future rather than taking short cuts that could ruin them long-term.
Non-League managers will get their chance but it is a more detailed process and they need more protection. It’s a long career. Why rush it and slip up?