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Hughes gets break from Fulham relegation battle

last updated Wednesday 26th March 2008, 10:27 AM
Aaron Hughes
Aaron Hughes
Fulham captain Aaron Hughes will use this week's spell with the Northern Ireland squad to relieve the stress and pressures of a desperate relegation battle.

The former Aston Villa centre-half is currently embroiled in a frantic bid to help the west London club, who are second from bottom in the Barclays Premier League, stave off the dreaded drop.

Defeat to Newcastle on Saturday - Kevin Keegan's first win in his second spell as Magpies boss - only added to Hughes' woe.

The threat of relegation will hang over his head when he leads out his country against eastern European minnows Georgia at Windsor Park.

But 28-year-old Hughes is determined to put any thoughts of club football to the back of his mind - even if it is for one night only.

"Coming back to Northern Ireland for this friendly helps to take my mind off our battle against relegation," admitted Hughes, who is the only Northern Ireland international in the current Fulham team with striker David Healy and full-back Chris Baird banished to the reserves under manager Roy Hodgson.

"Every game is important at the minute for us, and every time we go into training we are working on different things to try to improve our game so that we are ready for another scrap come match day.

"The fact I have been able to come away for a few days is a pleasant change and distraction. We'll get the game out of the way and then come Thursday we'll return to our clubs and concentrate on the weekend games.

Hughes will captain Northern Ireland for the 28th time against Georgia but this evening will be an extra-special occasion for the Cookstown-born defender - it will be exactly 10 years since he made his international debut.

But he says the last three years - which have included victories over European giants England, Spain and Sweden - have been magical.

"We've made a steady rise up the rankings and that is so pleasing," says Hughes, who has two and half years left to run on his Fulham contract.

"It's been a great honour to captain the boys in those victories against such great teams and I hope our excellent form continues in the World Cup qualifiers."


































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