PNE's Jordan Hugill speaks for first time about transfer saga...and the future
It was an interesting summer to say the least for Preston's in-demand front man Jordan Hugill.
Not a week seemed to go by without him being linked with a club seeking his services.
The bidding eventually reached £8m in the closing stages of the window, that the figure which Reading put on the table.
North End held firm and turned the offer down, preferring to keep Hugill at Deepdale rather than taking the money.
“Five or six years ago I could not have imagined being worth 10 quid, never mind £8m,” he said.
The 25-year-old admits he found the events of the transfer window rather ‘stressful’ in that it was a new experience for him.
He handed in a written transfer request shortly before the deadline, one which PNE rejected.
Bearing all that in mind, there might have been a fear Hugill would take his eye off the ball in a football sense.
The striker insists that would never have been the case – his performances either side of the window shutting, backing up that statement.
Alex Neil hailed Hugill’s display in the 3-0 win over Cardiff, labelling him as a ‘beast’ to play against.
At Birmingham last week, he scored his fourth goal of the campaign.
There was a sense of irony there in that the Blues were one of the clubs who bid for him.
After that game, Harry Redknapp lamented the fact he had not been able to land Hugill – 90 minutes later he had lost his job.
Hugill now has his sights on another strong show when Millwall come to Deepdale this weekend.
“I have been through a lot, this is the first time it has happened to me with the transfer request and stuff,” said Hugill.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life and know never to let things get me down.
“Five or six years ago I could never have imagined being in this position, so it is a delight to see how far I have come.
“Having £8m rejected by the club – five or six years ago I could not have imagined being worth 10 quid.
“Hopefully I can carry on going – the price tag might increase if I can keep on performing.”
While not getting a move, was it flattering to Hugill that PNE dug their heels in to keep him?
“I think it would have been the highest transfer the club had made if it had gone through,” said Hugill.
“It was nice to see that they do value me – I like to think I’m an integral part of the squad and that I’m going to do my best to score goals to get us as high up the league as possible.”
Interest in Hugill first surfaced in January when Ipswich made two bids.
Wolves had a look at him in May and were to maintain an interest from afar all summer.
In July and then again on the eve of the season, Birmingham put offers in.
Then Reading came in with the £8m bid as the deadline neared, with that followed by the player’s transfer request.
Reflecting on all that went on, Hugill said: “I was never going to be throwing my toys out of the pram, I was not brought up like that.
“I was always going to be professional in what I did.
“Obviously nothing happened in the end and I’m here, I will carry on playing as much as I can at 100%.
“There were a number of bids for me, it wasn’t just last month, there have been in the last six months.
“It has been a stressful six months but nothing has changed my view – I’ve got on with it, got my head down and worked hard.”
The Hugill saga led to much debate among the North End supporters over whether he should be sold or kept.
Putting in the transfer request did him no favours with some fans, so was he ever worried about their reaction?
Hugill said: “I want to say yes but at the end of the day, the decision I made was for me.
“It might have been a bit of a selfish one but it is something I had to do for myself and my family.
“There hasn’t been a negative reaction really.
“In the first game back against Barnsley, I heard a few things around the crowd but you get that.
“It was something to take on the chin – if you are big enough to make a decision, you have to accept what comes from it.
“I will get my head down, hopefully score some goals until January and see what happens.”
As for matters on the pitch, Hugill is delighted to be playing his part in Preston’s bright start to the campaign.
They sit in fourth place ahead of Millwall’s visit, last week’s victory over Birmingham being their fourth win this season.
That was importantly PNE’s first away success, a key result bearing in mind their last win on the road had been in January.
Hugill said: “We had waited so long for an away win so it was nice when it came along.
“The first-half display was disappointing from our point of view. Then we produced what we did in the second half, which was really good.
“It was the first away win for a while which was a big thing for us.
“We are showing that we go and attack teams regardless of whether we are home or away – that is a refreshing view of things.
“In the first few games we played a lot of big teams and proved we could do well against them.
“We earned respect and other teams are going to think they are in for a tough game.
“Maybe it has been a case of proving people wrong and showing we are not just here to take part, but to compete.”
As a striker, Hugill is clearly enjoying Alex Neil’s high-pressing game.
He is getting plenty of company up front in the shape of Sean Maguire, Tom Barkhuizen and Josh Harrop, who operate in the support line behind him.
Said Hugill: “The first few weeks was a drastic change from the previous manager to this one.
“Now we are seeing the benefits of it, everything is so intense.
“The gaffer is pushing us to be at our best and that is what you want as a player because it will only improve you in the long run.
“Our high press seems to cause problems to a lot of teams. With the squad we have got, we have got the attitude that we will get at teams.”