Best place for Will Hughes is with Derby County
DERBY County is the best place for talented youngster Will Hughes to continue his development, says manager Nigel Clough.
Hughes is being monitored by all the big clubs in the Premier League, including Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.
The 17-year-old has caught the eye this season.
He has started all but one of Derby's 16 Championship matches and became the second youngest player to represent England at under-21 level when he appeared against Northern Ireland on Tuesday.
Clough admits clubs are queuing up to watch Hughes.
"We see the list of scouts for our matches at Pride Park and it is their job to be watching all the good young talent in the Championship and below," said Clough.
"When a 17-year-old looks to have the ability Will has, then it is bound to attract attention. It is inevitable.
"We don't mind that at all. It shows he is doing something right and it is great for our Academy.
"There are not too many 17-year-olds playing week in, week out with his ability in the Championship – or anywhere – and we think he is good enough to go to the next level."
But Clough believes this is not the right time for the youngster to move to a bigger club where he could become lost in the system.
"We feel that, and I think Will understands that as well," said Clough.
"The best possible thing for him at the moment is to stay with us, get a season or two under his belt in the Championship and just keep learning and improving.
"Can we hang onto him? We hope we can.
"We have not had any contact or bids for him from clubs, although there are plenty of scouts coming to watch him and we don't think they are coming to watch Gareth Roberts at 34!
"We've still got to be careful with Will, because he has played only 16 or 17 games, so it is still very early in his career.
"It is important he keeps his feet on the ground, that he doesn't get carried away with things and that he keeps performing week in, week out.
"He is level-headed and intelligent enough to do that.
"Everybody is proud of what he has achieved so far. He was back training on Wednesday morning after the England Under-21 game and he was the same as always. The lads gave him a couple of whacks, as they normally do!"
Hughes has been at Derby since the age of 13 and is a product of the Academy.
He is taking little notice of the speculation over his future.
"It is nice to get recognised but it is just rumours. I have just signed a new contract, which shows I am enjoying it here at Derby," he said.
Clough refuses to put a price tag on Hughes' head.
"How much is he worth? I don't think we should start putting figures on him," said Clough.
"There isn't anybody to compare him with at the moment. The young players who have gone for big money, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain last year, they are forward players and so it is difficult to judge Will's value.
"But if anybody wants him, they know it will be serious money.
"Nothing has changed. If an offer comes in for Will or any player, it will be judged on its merits. If we think it is good business and we can do something with it, then we will do it."
Clough insists he is under no pressure to sell Hughes or any player, despite reports he must raise £1.8m in the January transfer window.
However, Clough admits Derby are "slightly" over budget when it comes to wages.
When asked about the figure of £1.8m, Clough replied: "We'd better start having a whip-round, then!
"We have had no instructions that we need to sell anybody at the moment.
"We are not far off with the wage bill. We are slightly over budget but we knew that at the start of the season.
"The difference now is that we have assets on the books. We have been over budget in the past but had no assets.
"We have assets and if we choose and the owners choose, we can cash in one of them, if we want to.
"If you have assets, it is inevitable there will be interest in them."
Clough says a good run in the FA Cup would be a welcome bonus.
"We don't budget for the cups and so a run always helps," he added. "We could do with a couple of good draws."
Rams defender John Brayford has been linked with West Ham United but Clough said: "We've heard nothing about that."