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Exclusive Sean Gregan column: Why Hugill HAD to go

Preston striker Callum Robinson  forces a good save from Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor at Deepdale
Preston striker Callum Robinson forces a good save from Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor at Deepdale

I wish Jordan Hugill the very best after his big-money move from Preston North End to West Ham just before the transfer window closed last week.

No one can begrudge the lad wanting to play Premier League football and it was a great deal for both him and North End, who got a club record fee.

With Hugill’s background, having played non-league football just a few years ago, you can see why this move was something he jumped at.

Speaking with hindsight, he will be glad he didn’t move in the summer to another club in the Championship when there were three or fours clubs looking at him.

He handed in a transfer request towards the end of August which didn’t make anything happen.

Fair play to him, he got his head down after that and got on with playing, scoring more goals which ultimately landed him the move to West Ham.

Contrast that with how Riyad Mahrez has reacted since he saw a proposed move to Manchester City from Leicester fall by the wayside.

Like Hugill, I left Preston for the Premier League.

I joined West Bromwich and when the time came to leave, I made it very clear that I would only have left North End for the top flight.

A couple of months later, David Healy left Preston to go to Leeds, who were in the same division.

I always thought that the reaction of the North End supporters was telling when we came back – I would get a handshake and David would get some stick.

While Hugill is going to West Ham as a squad player primarily, I hope he can make a positive impact.

The reaction of their fans has been lukewarm to say the least, however attitudes will change if the striker finds the back of the net a couple of times.

On the pitch, it was a good few days for North End who were not being distracted by the Hugill story.

For them to win 3-0 against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground last Tuesday night was a great result.

Forest had gone to Wolves the league game before and won 2-0.

Aitor Karanka has gone in at Forest with a reputation of making his sides organised at the back.

North End certainly didn’t struggle breaking them down and exploiting the gaps in Forest’s defence.

On Saturday against Hull, it was a bit more of a battle but they came out with a 2-1 win.

Not all wins are achieved with a dominant display but they found a way of getting the three points.

The back-to-back wins lifted Preston from 11th place to seventh.

String a run of victories together and very quickly a team can shoot up the table.

A team might go unbeaten in six games but five of those could be draws.

The promotion and play-off battle is always a tough one in the Championship as the prize is so big.

Wolves are running away in top spot but underneath them things are quite tight.

If North End can stay up there and keep in touch, who knows what can happen?