VIDEO: Lee Hughes can prove difference for Port Vale, says Dave Kevan
PORT Vale have taken a massive stride towards promotion by snapping up striker Lee Hughes.
That's the view of Dave Kevan, the Stoke City under-21s coach who worked with the veteran frontman when they were both at Notts County.
Kevan says the 36-year-old is still good enough to make a big difference at League Two level.
And he insists there's no way the colourful striker will upset the dressing-room spirit at Vale Park.
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"I'm sure Lee will be a great asset to Port Vale and a huge boost to their season," said Kevan, who was assistant manager and spent two short spells as caretaker boss at Meadow Lane between 2009 and 2010.
"He'll be a great signing for them and I've no doubt he'll help them to win promotion.
"People's perception of him is not always good, but he's actually a smashing lad who's great to have around the place."
Kevan insists Hughes has qualities both as a player and a personality.
"He's a fantastic finisher first of all," he said. "But he's played at the highest level, so he's more than that.
"He's a clever player whose movement is good, whose intelligence is good, who uses his body well and who uses his strength well.
"He plays with his brain and he's adapted his game as he has got older.
"I'm absolutely sure he'll get loads of goals between now and the end of the season, but he's also clever enough to create opportunities for others and I think he'll complement the existing players really well."
Hughes started his career with non-league Kidderminster Harriers before winning a £350,000 move to boyhood heroes West Bromwich Albion in August 1997.
He finished as the Baggies' leading scorer for four seasons running, and a total of 86 goals in 155 starts earned him a £5m move to Coventry in 2001.
He returned to the Hawthorns just 12 months later for precisely half that figure, and though he couldn't prevent relegation, he helped West Brom bounce back to the top flight in 2004.
Hughes was jailed after being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving after a fatal crash in November 2003, eventually serving half of a six-year sentence before returning to football with Oldham Athletic in 2007.
A loan spell at Blackpool was followed by a switch to Notts County in July, 2009.
Hughes scored 30 times in the league as the club won the League Two title and finished with 67 goals in 113 starts for the Magpies.
He had scored six times for the club this season, despite figuring mainly from the bench.
The striker first emerged as a target for the Valiants in November, but a proposed loan deal fell through when it emerged the relevant paperwork had been submitted to the Football League three minutes past the deadline.
But he remained on boss Micky Adams's radar and the move, revived on Monday, was signed and sealed yesterday after a successful medical.
Kevan believes Hughes will be an asset in the changing room too.
"The lads at every club he's been at seem to love Lee because he's that kind of character," he said.
"He always has a smile on his face, he's a bubbly, cheerful character. He's just a good-natured lad who can only enhance the spirit that's obviously there already."