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NI star Hughes thrilled to work under MacPhee at Hearts

By Gavin McCafferty

Aaron Hughes admits he was intrigued by the prospect of working with young coaching pair Ian Cathro and Austin MacPhee at Hearts. The 103-times capped Northern Ireland international is set to make his debut against Raith Rovers in the William Hill Scottish Cup tomorrow after becoming part of Cathro's new-look defence.

The 37-year-old is seven years older than the Hearts head coach and the same age as MacPhee, who has worked with the former Newcastle and Fulham player at international level.

"I think it makes it interesting," Hughes said. "It's quite fresh, having a different way of looking at football sometimes and how to play. That being said, they are both extremely motivated people and very sure of how they want the team to play and when we train everything is of a high standard. Short and sharp but it's intense and that's good too.

"While there are people saying negative things about it, I think there are a lot of positives about it and that was one of the things that attracted me."

Hughes has been impressed with MacPhee in his role as assistant to Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill.

Hughes said: "Both the manager and Austin pay a lot of attention to the smaller details that are sometimes the difference between winning and losing. I have found that over the years, the margins sometimes are very, very small.

"It looks like a competitive league, if you maybe take a couple of bigger teams out everyone else can beat each other. Then you have to look at the little things that, if you can get right over 90 minutes, you give yourself a better chance of winning. That's what Austin is really good at.

"It gives younger players a belief that, yes it could be a scrap but we have got this information and have worked on this all week and are confident we can go out and this could be the difference."

Hughes is looking forward to experiencing Scottish football for the first time after spells in Australia and India, where he latterly played for Kerala Blasters.

"It was one of the reasons I went abroad, to try something new and see how things are done differently," he said. "I learnt a lot of things and enjoyed it.

"India was an eye-opener every day, it's so diverse. You can be in a city that's absolutely packed, crazy, noisy to another city that was quite quiet and peaceful.

"My first game was in the north east and we were driving back and a baboon runs across the street, hurdles someone's fence and into their garden. Things like that don't happen here."

Hughes is one of four new signings and Cathro is not desperate to add another before the end of January. He dismissed reports linking him with interest in Rangers winger Michael O'Halloran.

Cathro said: "We are still looking at some possible things but it gets more and more difficult the later things go and it probably becomes a little bit more uncontrollable. There is no major stress.

"We would like to be able to do something else, if we can it will be because it's the right thing, if not then okay. We can also improve the players just by work."

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