Port Vale tried to sign Lee Hughes twice but this “nearly man” feature has a happy ending as Hughes finally joined Vale at the third time of asking.
This occasional series profiles players that nearly signed for Vale only for the move to never take place…
Missed chance number one: Summer 1997
At the end of the 1996-97 season, Hughes had scored 34 goals for Kidderminster Harriers and was regarded as one of the finest prospects in non-league football. In the summer of 1997, several clubs were interested in purchasing the striker and Vale, flush with the £850,000 from the sale of Steve Guppy, were in the chasing pack.
Vale actually matched Kidderminster’s demand for £200,000 but with West Brom, Hughes’ idols, also matching that amount, it was no suprise that Hughes opted for the Hawthorns.
At the time Hughes commented: “A few clubs were interested in buying me after I scored 34 goals last season. But once I knew West Brom had come in there was no contest – they were the club for me.”
Missed chance number two: November 2012
Hughes had been heavily tipped to join the Valiants once the takeover by Norman Smurthwaite and Paul Wildes was completed but agonisingly, the Vale were unable to complete the move at the first time of asking.
On the 22nd November, just two days after the Vale takeover was complete, Notts County announced that Hughes had agreed a loan move to Vale with a view to a permanent move. But then in the coming hours, the move started to unravel. It transpired that Vale had not submitted the paperwork in time for the Football League deadline and the move was subsequently cancelled.
Third Time lucky: January 2013
However, Vale’s persistence was finally to pay off as Hughes eventually joined the club on the 8th January 2013.
His ten goals played a major part in the club securing promotion to League One.