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Hawthorns 'hands off' warning on ace Hughes.

West Bromwich Albion are ready to repel mounting interest from Premiership clubs in their red-hot striker Lee Hughes after his latest salvo of goals sank Bristol City on Avonmouth last Sunday.

Scouts from a string of top-flight clubs, including Arsenal, Coventry City and Nottingham Forest, were at Ashton Gate to see the flame-haired predator score twice to become the First Division's joint top marksman with eight goals.

The spies were out in force on home soil, too, when Albion played Bolton Wanderers last Tuesday and Hughes got himself into enough goacoring positions to have walked off with the match ball.

Hughes, born a mile down the road in Smethwick and a regular among the fans on Albion's Birmingham Road End before he was signed by Kidderminster Harriers, has suddenly become hot property at The Hawthorns.

Which is why the club, standing just three points off the First Division lead, are ready to pour cold water on the first hopeful Premiership manager who makes a serious offer for their precious striker.

Signed for just pounds 200,000 by former manager Ray Harford last summer, Hughes would have a market value of at least pounds 2million should Albion consider selling him now.

They have no intention of cashing in, however. Hughes is under long-term contract with the club and Albion see his goacoring expertise as their ticket into the Premiership.

Just as importantly, Hughes is happy to have fulfilled his dream to play for the club he supported as a boy.

"Albion are the only club I ever wanted to play for," he said. "I know there were other First Division clubs in the hunt when Ray Harford came in for me, but I wasn't interested.

"Yes, I'd love to play in the Premiership. That has to be the ambition of any professional footballer. But there's no reason why I can't make it with this club."

Denis Smith, the Albion chie knows full well that Hughes has attracted nationwide interest but will give short shrift to clubs seeking to prise him away from The Hawthorns.

"They haven't got a chance," he said. "When I was managing Oxford United, I spent most of my time selling players just to keep the club afloat. I don't have to do that here."

Big names at Rovers

Derek Mountfield and Charlie Ntamark, former team-mates at Walsall, are poised to form the new managerial team at Dr Martens Premier Division club Bromsgrove. Mountfield, the former Aston Villa defender and one-time Cameroon World Cup player Ntamark, tur ned out for Rovers in the 2-1 defeat at Burton last Saturday and could replace Steve Daley after the former Wolves midfielder's resignation.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 15, 1998
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