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‘We won’t take them lightly’ – Will Hughes targets FA Cup final and respects League Two opponents – South London News

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Crystal Palace midfielder Will Hughes is eager to repeat the feat of reaching the FA Cup final and says they will not be taking League Two side Hartlepool United “lightly”.

The Eagles host Hartlepool on Saturday after they beat South London rivals Millwall 2-1 away in the third round of the FA Cup.

Hughes reached the FA Cup final with Watford in 2019, beating Roy Hodgson’s Palace 2-1 in the quarter-finals. Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City brushed the Hornets aside 6-0.

When asked if he was determined to reach the final this time around with Crystal Palace after coming close to lifting the cup in 2019, Hughes said:“ Yeah, of course. The higher and further you go in the competition, the more special it is. But you can’t take games such as this lightly.

“People will be assuming that because we are at home against a League Two club, on paper, it should be easy, but it never is like that.

“We have got to apply ourselves as we normally do for any other game and make it as easy as we possibly can. But, if we’re not at it, 100 per cent we know that it will be difficult for us. It’s down to us.

“We’re professionals, and I don’t think the manager would let us off in terms of our attitude and our work application.

“We’re going to go into every game wanting to win, and that’s whether we’re mathematically safe or not. We will be pushing.”

When asked whether he believed the FA Cup had lost its sense of occasion, Hughes said: “A lot of clubs can use it as a time to give players minutes, but we don’t see it like that – we want to go out and win.

“The manager says that he is going to play as strong a team as possible to go and win the game. That’s how we feel as well.

“It’s not lost its magic for me. Especially when you’re growing up, that’s one of the major competitions that you want to win and want to be a part of – to play in it is special.

“In games such as this, when they [Hartlepool] are bringing nearly 5000 all the way down here, fair play to them. It’s going to be some atmosphere, and it makes it a lot more exciting.”

The 26-year-old midfielder was brought to South London in the summer transfer window after the Eagles paid Watford £6million to secure his services.

After failing to make an immediate impact on Vieira’s first team, Hughes has started the last nine games in a row and become an integral part of the side.

“I am absolutely loving it,” said Hughes on reaching the halfway mark of his first campaign at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace v Everton, Premier League, Selhurst Park, 12 December 2021

“I have settled in straight away, albeit I wasn’t playing at the start of the season. There were a few reasons behind that – I didn’t have a pre-season, got injured, and first and foremost, the lads did an unbelievable job on the pitch.

“There was no way that I could have argued my case to the manager because of how well we were playing – I couldn’t really complain.”

While Hughes had been playing in a slightly advanced role in the midfield three when he was first introduced into the Palace side, Vieira has deployed him just in front of the back four in recent weeks in the absence of Cheikhou Kouyate.

“Preferably, I would prefer to play as a number six,” admitted Hughes. “But that’s not to say I don’t enjoy playing further forward as well, because I do, and I am capable of doing that as well.”

Speaking on what he had learnt working under Vieira, who won five FA Cups during his playing career, Hughes said: “A lot, even more so in that midfield position.

“Look at the career he’s had – he has won almost anything. Any little snippets I can get from him, and he is more than happy to let the players in his office to ask him anything that you need. That has been a big help.”

“He’s cool and calculated, but if he needs to tell you to do something, he won’t hesitate to do it. He has got that aura about him – he has got that respect that just comes naturally. It has been a pleasure working under him.”

Hughes broke through into the Derby first team at just 16 years old and made more than 180 appearances during his time at Pride Park before being sold to Watford.

Hughes was given the wonderkid tag as he made a name for himself with the Rams, with Manchester City, Barcelona and Liverpool all reported to be keeping tabs on his fledgling career at the time.

When asked if he had passed on any advice to Palace’s emerging youngsters, with Michael Olise (20), Conor Gallagher (21) and Marc Guehi (21) all key members of the side, Hughes said: “Bits and bobs. If ever they wanted advice or little snippets, I am more than happy to give it to them.

“But you can tell, with the way that they have been playing this season, they have all got ability in abundance. They all seem to have their feet on the ground, which is the most important thing. As long as they keep doing that, the sky is the limit for them.”

PICTURE: KEITH GILLARD

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