WILL Hughes and Derby County’s other young players will benefit from the experience of facing Chelsea, says head coach Steve McClaren.
Eighteen-year-old Hughes was one of four players aged 21 or under to line up against one of Europe’s top teams in Sunday’s FA Cup tie.
Jeff Hendrick, 21, joined Hughes in central midfield where they faced the know-how and power of John Obi Mikel and Michael Essien.
Rams defenders Andre Wisdom and Michael Keane, both 20, found themselves up against the talents of Oscar, Willian, Eden Hazard, Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o at different stages of the game.
“That is totally different to what they experience week in, week out in the Championship,” McClaren said of his young players following the 2-0 defeat.
Chelsea fielded a team full of stars who have won league titles, the Champions’ League, even the World Cup.
“We don’t face that kind of quality every week and so the game will be valuable to the players in the future in terms of where they want to go,” McClaren said.
“I think it was a bit of a taste for our lads of what life is like at the top level.
“We learned just how fast and clinical teams like Chelsea can be.”
Hughes has been linked with several Premier League clubs since establishing himself in Derby’s first team.
Already in this transfer window reports have circulated that Liverpool have first option on the England Under-21 international as part of the deal to loan Wisdom to Derby although there is no such tie-up, I am told.
Rams chief executive Sam Rush has said Hughes is in the best place for his development.
“There is a huge amount for him to achieve here and I don’t feel commercially it is the right time for us to entertain any other discussions,” Rush said.