Belfast Telegraph

Hughes tempted by lure of 100 caps

By Rory Dollard

Former Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes had some good news for fans after touching down in Turkey – he has given more thought to winning his hundredth cap than he has to retiring for the second time.

Hughes first brought down the curtain on his international career at the end of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign, but was persuaded to provide an encore when Michael O'Neill took over as manager.

Exactly how long the 34-year-old would be tempted to stay on for was a question that began to surface in recent months, but the Fulham defender is in no mood to ponder his exit.

Indeed, he is more prone to considering the 13 caps he needs to become Northern Ireland's first-ever outfield centurion.

"I guess because I am on 87 caps I do think a bit about getting to the 100 milestone," he said.

"Sometimes I let myself think about it then there are other times when I know it is not the time to let my mind wander.

"Everything will depend on injuries and if I am playing for my club, though.

"I have got to be playing and getting minutes on the pitch if I am going to make it to 100 but of course it would be extremely special.

"At the minute I am just looking to play whenever possible and not looking too far ahead.

"I haven't thought about retirement. The last time I thought long and hard and it felt right at the time. I then spoke to Michael and I liked a lot of things he was saying. I also really missed it and any time there was a game I thought a lot about being around the squad.

"At the time I wasn't in the Fulham team so it decided to come back but there is no rush for me to make any decisions now.

"I have had informal chats with Michael but there has been no massive heart-to-heart."

Meanwhile, there was yet another withdrawal from the squad, with Shane Ferguson falling by the wayside because of illness.

The Newcastle winger, who has been on loan at Birmingham, will miss out meaning a likely start for Jonny Steele in left midfield.

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