Former Newcastle United and Aston Villa defender expected to retire following Hearts exit

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Veteran defender Aaron Hughes is expected to call time on a memorable football career that has spanned over two-decades after being one of four players to depart Hearts.

The 39-year-old was restricted to just seven appearances for the Tynecastle club last season, his last coming in the 2-1 loss to Celtic on the final day of the Premiership campaign.

Striker Conor Sammon has also departed Hearts following the expiry of his contract, having struggled to make an impact in Gorgie.

The Irishman has spent the last two-and-a-half years on loan at Kilmarnock, Partick Thistle and Motherwell after initially joining Hearts in summer 2016.

Loan defenders Demi Mitchell, whose season ended in February after sustaining a knee injury, and Conor Shaughnessy have also officially returned to parent clubs Manchester United and Leeds United respectively.

Former Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Fulham, QPR, Brighton, Melbourne City and Kerala Blasters centre-half Hughes’ exit from Hearts was confirmed yesterday on the same day he was included in Northern Ireland’s squad for their forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Michael O’Neill’s side face Estonia in Tallinn on June 8 and Belarus in Borisov three days later and Hughes is expected to hang up his boots after those games.

With 112 caps, Hughes, who moved to the Edinburgh outfit in January 2017, is his country’s most capped outfield player.

O’Neill said: “I left it up to Aaron in terms of his involvement. He is invaluable with the younger players in the squad.”

Role model

Hearts manager Levein has previously praised Hughes’ influence behind the scenes at Tynecastle, particularly with the younger players.

Speaking last year, Levein said: “When he has been fit and available he has been steady but it is his lifestyle, the way he treats people, his humility, even after everything he has done in the game.

“I walked past the video analysis room and Aaron was in there with young Chris Hamilton. 

“The onus is on the kids to ask questions. Chris is 16 and in a dressing room with Aaron, who has played hundreds of games in the Premiership. 

“If it was me I’d be asking every question I could think of.”

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