Young gun is 'leading the way' for us, admits Wigan Athletic boss
Shaun Maloney heaped plaudits on young defender Charlie Hughes, who is 'leading the way' with Wigan Athletic's survival fight.
The Academy product, who recently signed a new long-term contract, was impressive again in the 1-1 midweek draw against Coventry.
Latics remain deep in the mire, lying five points - effectively eight with a looming deduction - adrift of safety with only nine matches to go.
But Maloney says the way Hughes adapted to a tense situation - as part of both a back three and later, after a reshuffle, a flat back four - was a shining beacon for hope.
"I have to give a big shout out to Charlie Hughes," he said. "For someone who's only 19 years old, he's been absolutely brilliant.
"I had to open the game up in the last 20 minutes, every single substitution I made was to try to attack.
"That meant I had to ask Charlie to defend large spaces at times in one-v-ones, and I thought he came up with a brilliant performance."
Hughes, who spent time with Liverpool and Manchester City before joining Latics, was only given his league debut by Kolo Toure at Middlesbrough on Boxing Day.
And although backs are against the wall at the moment, Maloney believes being thrown in at the deep end will stand Hughes in good stead for the rest of his career.
"Every experience he has will help to make him a better player," the Latics boss added. "He's really taking on board with how we're trying to defend.
"I have to respect what he was taught before under Kolo, because he gave him his chance.
"But I think what I'm seeing so far defensively - he's growing with each game - if anything I'm going to push him to be even better with the ball.
"I know he can play more, he has that diagonal pass, but it doesn't have to be the first option.
"But a talented, talented boy for sure.
"We're scrapping for our lives and we've got a 19-year-old boy leading the way.
"He's got a really big future, and he's a really, really good lad as well.
"He works hard, he takes on information, and he will go a long way."