Portsmouth head of football target and ex-Everton, Burnley and Stoke City man has been 'mastermind' behind Forest Green Rovers' success - whose proven at helping develop exciting talent

The News have exclusively reported Forest Green’s Richard Hughes has emerged as a strong contender for Pompey’s vacant head of football operations role. We caught up with Gloucestershire Live’s Laurie Martin, who gave us the lowdown on a figure whose reputation is soaring in the game.

By Jordan Cross
Monday, 9th May 2022, 3:00 pm

Richard Hughes arrived in May 2018 at the end of Forest Green’s first season in League Two.

It was a messy season in terms of recruitment and across the second half of it there was a lot of talk from the manager, Mark Cooper, they were going to get a head of recruitment.

It basically got done 15 to 20 days after the season’s end, they got it done really quickly.

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In October 2019 he was elevated to director of football, Cooper went to head coach and Forest Green have followed that model ever since.

He came from Everton where he was academy co-ordinator, and he’s been around a fair bit in terms of recruitment and also having analyst roles at places at Macclesfield and Tamworth.

Forest Green has been his longest role, though, and he’s certainly built up a strong reputation.

Over the past few weeks, how long the club can keep hold of him has become a topic of conversation among fans.

Pompey are keen on Richard Hughes as their new head of football - whose been central to Forest Green Rovers' success. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Players like Kane Wilson, Nicky Cadden and Ebou Adams and even the manager, Rob Edwards, are being linked with bigger clubs.

But people were thinking how long will it be before Hughes is linked with bigger clubs, because he’s been the mastermind behind it all.

He’s been getting a lot of credit in recent weeks since promotion has been confirmed, so ultimately I’m not surprised to hear Pompey are interested.

He’s certainly earned his stripes and built up a real good reputation for Forest Green as a club - and also himself.

When Cooper was manager Forest Green always wanted to recruit young players, polish them up and sell them for a profit. Hughes has come in and improved that even more.

A term he uses a lot is ‘broken toys’, ‘scrapheap’ is another. It’s players who have come in from Premier League and Championship academies or from non league.

In the case of Kane Wilson, for example, he was released by West Brom in the summer of 2020, Hughes saw him as a broken toy from a bigger club.

But he has seen the value in polishing him up while he’s still young, improving him and then selling him on for however much in a couple of years.

Liam Kitching was another good example, who they got from Leeds. He was at the club for a couple of years and they then sold him on for a club record of £600-£700,000.

There are many other examples like Nathan McGinley who came from Middlesbrough and went to Motherwell. If you look at the current squad there are plenty of examples, too.

From the moment he came in their recruitment improved in terms of it being targeted, not so messy and signing fewer players in general. That meant there was less churn and it gave the club greater continuity.

The approach has served Forest Green very well and turned them into a sustainable model.

I imagine he’s achieved the goals he set himself when he came in – it could be that winning the League Two title is a high for him to go out on.