Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes keen to become A-lister with Melbourne City

By Steven Beacom

Aaron Hughes is enjoying his new life in Australia. Off the field the 35-year-old and his family have settled in well since moving Down Under in July.

What the Northern Ireland star wants to do now is show his worth on the field.

The A-League, which is Australia's equivalent of the Premier League, has just started and Hughes has yet to be involved due to injury.

That was why Hughes was ruled out of Northern Ireland's October double header when they beat Greece 3-1 at Windsor Park to qualify for the Euro 2016 finals and drew 1-1 with Finland in Helsinki to top their group.

Hughes, showing his commitment to manager Michael O'Neill, took the long journey from Australia to join up with the squad, even though there was a chance he would not be able to play.

It was fitting that Hughes was around for those two magical nights of celebration.

Since making his international debut in 1998, and going on to win 96 caps to date, he has been one of the most consistent players ever to wear the Northern Ireland shirt.

The former Newcastle, Aston Villa and Fulham star would love to make it to 100 caps, but even more important to him will be to make it to France for the Euro finals.

O'Neill believes the defender's experience and calming influence will be extremely useful next year.

For his part Hughes wants to start playing games and Melbourne, who have conceded seven goals in their last three matches, could do with him.

He said: "Being with Northern Ireland on the night we qualified was great. It was fantastic to do it Windsor.

"Now I'm really looking forward to playing in the A-League for Melbourne City.

"The standard is good and I want to do well for the club, who have made me and my family feel really welcome."

Belfast Telegraph