EXCLUSIVE: Lee Hughes tells us why he left Notts County
NOTTS County's Lee Hughes has spoken exclusively to the Post about his shock transfer request and said: "I have to go."
The striker, 36, is set to finalise a move to Port Vale on loan until January subject to the relevant paperwork being completed – and could make a permanent move to the League Two club in the new year.
He has revealed he asked to leave Meadow Lane because he was sick of sitting on the subs' bench this season.
His decision will have left Magpies' fans gutted because he is their hero, having scored a staggering 65 goals in 144 games for the club over three-and-a-half seasons.
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He fired them to the League Two title with 30 goals in his first season at Meadow Lane and got into double figures in both of the last two seasons.
But he has started just five times in League One this season because young Frenchman Yoann Arquin has been their first-choice striker, following his arrival at Notts in the summer.
"I've loved it at Notts, but I wasn't playing enough games," said Hughes.
"The team has been doing well and at my age I want to be playing and enjoying my football.
"I feel like I have given it long enough, but it has reached the point where I have to make the decision to go and get some games somewhere else.
"It is me. I am not getting the opportunities I want and being on the subs' bench is getting me down.
"I was training during the week and just playing 20 minutes here and there most of the time and it has been hard.
"I started at Scunthorpe last Saturday and scored twice, but was on the bench again at Preston."
Despite not playing much this season, Hughes is still the Magpies' joint-top scorer in the league with Arquin and captain Neal Bishop on five goals.
After getting off the mark against Bury, he came off the subs' bench to score the winner in a 3-2 home victory against Shrewsbury Town and an equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United.
He also netted a double against Scunthorpe United on his first start in two months last Saturday.
"It was a hard decision because the fans have been so good to me," added Hughes.
"I love the club, it feels like my second home.
"I want to say thanks to everyone for all of their support.
"But I've got to think about my career.
"If this is the end then that is sad.
"But you can never say never.
"If I go there and get a few goals I might be back, you never know.
"I've had so my good times at Notts, they have been some of the best times of my career."