Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Northern Ireland: we need a win

Former Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes (centre) leads the players in training
Former Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes (centre) leads the players in training

Aaron Hughes has admitted a first Northern Ireland win under Michael O’Neill in Malta tonight would be a major boost - just to stop talking about it.

The ex-skipper believes they should already have at least one win on the board from O’Neill’s opening seven games in his first year in charge, but as yet it has proved elusive.

The excitement of drawing against Portugal was contrasted by the failure to beat minnows Azerbaijan in the last outing.

With four draws from the seven games Hughes insists beating Malta would be a major boost ahead of daunting World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Israel next month.

“Friendlies are all about getting a chance to see new players, work on the shape of the team and maybe try new things, but it would be nice to get a win — then we wouldn’t have to talk about it again,” said Hughes.

“I know the manager will be looking for a good performance, but of course we all want to get that first win ahead of the bigger games which come next month.”

With O’Neill set to hand several players their Northern Ireland debuts including Billy McKay and Adam McGurk — and Alex Bruce a second international debut after playing for the Republic of Ireland — Hughes admits he feels like the new kid at school.

He added: “All the young lads know each other from the under-21s so it’s been me looking around not knowing what to say at dinner.

“I’m not really into Fifa 13 or Call of Duty so I have to find other things to talk about but hopefully I can show them on the pitch how important it is to never miss the opportunity we’ve been given with Northern Ireland.”

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