Everton’s season is in need of an injection of positivity following a poor run of results, and the emergence of a homegrown talent could be the ideal solution.
The Toffees have picked up just one point from a possible 12 in recent weeks as Rafa Benitez’s charges have struggled to cope with a lengthy list of absentees, increasing the pressure on the Spaniard.
A lack of goals following Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s enforced absence has been a constant source of frustration, but the solution could already be within the club.
Rhys Hughes has caught the eye over the last couple of campaigns for both the U18s and U23s, supplying the grateful strikers with a constant stream of quality crosses and through balls from out wide.
Since the start of 2019/20, the 20-year-old has bagged seven goals and provided a further 15 assists in 50 appearances for Everton, highlighting his top-class potential.
His eye-catching exploits for the youth teams led to Hughes signing his first professional contract in January 2020, before U23 manager David Unsworth lauded his technical ability.
“He’s got ability. What we’ve looked at is where do we play him,” said the tactician in a recent interview. “We felt playing off one of the sides, coming into the pockets, getting on the ball on the half-turn, was probably his best opportunity.”
However, Unsworth then suggested that the Wales U21 international needs to spend another 12 months in the youth setup to improve his physicality, although expressed his excitement at the potential of the dead-ball specialist.
“He has to get quicker, he has to get stronger, he has to develop physically, but this all happens naturally.
“He’s got the ability, he needs to build his stamina and his physicality but if you’re talking a footballer, he is an outstanding footballer with great technique and a great set-ball delivery. Those type of players are worth their weight in gold and after another year of development, we’ll see where we are with him.”
With Alex Iwobi still unable to discover his best form on Merseyside, the opportunity for Hughes to impress could be just around the corner, and his breakthrough may well be the catalyst Everton need to resurrect their faltering campaign.