THERE was no prouder man in Chester than Sam Hughes after being handed the Blues’ captaincy.
The 19-year-old defender became the club’s youngest ever skipper as he led Chester out against rivals Tranmere Rovers on Friday night, with regular captains Luke George and Tom Shaw ruled out through injury.
Although Andy Cook’s 88th minute winner saw the Blues go down to a 3-2 defeat, it couldn’t ruin what was a ‘massive moment’ for highly-rated Hughes - a product of Chester’s youth academy – who was visibly proud to be handed the extra responsibility by boss Jon McCarthy.
“It’s a massive moment for me, I didn’t expect it one little bit to be honest,” the teenager said. “The gaffer told me on Thursday after training and said he wanted me to be captain. I am very proud and privileged to be given the opportunity, it’s a massive, massive moment to lead the team out so it was really good.
“I didn’t want to change anything in my game or try and be the big ‘I am’ type. I’m just another voice on that pitch and we’ve got lots of strong characters and lots of experienced players who talk and communicate.
“As long as we’re all doing that, it doesn’t matter too much. I’ve got the armband on but I just wanted to encourage as much as possible and get the lads going. I did it for the youth team and thought I’d do exactly the same again.
“Luke (George) said just be relaxed. He’s someone I look up to a lot in the team, he’s a big character himself and the lads have been great with me. They’ve helped me along the way and I help them, it’s a good team bond that we’ve got and we won’t let that result get in the way of that.”
Hughes felt Chester paid the price for being pushed deeper in the second-half by Micky Mellon’s Tranmere side, but accepted it is difficult to keep a team at bay that can bring the likes of Andy Cook and James Norwood off the bench.
“It’s difficult to know what to say. I thought first 15 minutes we used the ball well, they struggled and kept giving the ball away,” he continued, after Chester led twice through James Alabi and Ryan Astles.
“We didn't create too many chances towards the end of the first-half and we began to drop deeper as they got the ball more.
“We had the 1-0 lead but second-half, right from the start, we struggled to get out and get up the pitch. It was difficult, we worked hard, but they got the equaliser. We showed good character to come back but naturally when you take the lead in such a big game, you drop deeper and really we should have tried to play with a higher line and keep them penned in their half.
“It was a bit of a basketball match by the end but we’ve got to move onto the next game and put this behind us.
“It’s difficult because you’re coming up against such different players, they’ve got a big squad and they can operate with four strikers. We should be able to deal with that, we didn’t get the rub of the green and the result is just that.”
Blues’ chief McCarthy revealed his senior players all wanted Hughes to be handed the captaincy in the absence of George and Shaw.
“I’ve got lots of leaders in the group, when I spoke to some of the older players who felt they might have had the captaincy, they all said, ‘give it to Sam Hughes’. That’s what is great about this group and it shows what we’re about,” he explained. “It’s one of their own who has come through. I thought it would lift the fans, lift Sam, and it did in terms of performance and I just felt it was a good opportunity.”
Chester have a two-week break from action now before facing Eastleigh on March 18, and McCarthy joked that a trip up the north Wales coast could be as far as a ‘warm weather break’ would take them.
“We’ve got enough money to take three players to Colwyn Bay so I’ve got to pick my favourites! Evan Horwood came and celebrated with me last week so he’s in my top three at the moment so we’ll go there, he’s getting loads of stick for that,” he added.
“I could pick any of them from (Tranmere), it was an outstanding effort from my group of players and I am very proud of how they went about things. It was close to being a memorable night.
“We might have a physio week and then some more time off. We will maybe go into the schools and help with some of the community work. It might help to have a friendly at the start of next week.”