NORTHERN IRELAND LEGEND Aaron Hughes insists he ‘lived the dream’ after calling time on his storied career.
The former Hearts defender officially announced his retirement in the aftermath of Tuesday evening’s fine 1-0 win against Belarus in Borisov, with the 39-year-old an unused member of the squad as a rare Paddy McNair goal secured the win.
The Euro 2020 qualifier was the final hurrah for Hughes, who hangs up his boots as the most capped defender in British football history after playing 112 times for his country – 48 of those as captain.
He tweeted: “So my professional playing career has finally come to an end and I’m officially retired! Not sure where the time went, but what an incredible journey it’s been.
“Thank you to everyone who helped and supported me along the way. I have quite literally lived the dream!”
As well as earning iconic status with Northern Ireland – playing a key role as they reached the European Championship in France three years ago – Hughes enjoyed a laudable club career.
Hughes made more than 650 appearances for the of Newcastle, Aston Villa, Fulham, QPR, Brighton and Melbourne City before joining Hearts from Kerala Blasters in January 2017.
Jambos boss Craig Levein repeatedly lauded the inspirational influence of Hughes on the younger players at Tynecastle as he brought the curtain down on his playing days in Gorgie.
In his final ever appearance as a professional footballer, he was given the captain’s armband when he came on in the 67th minute against Celtic on the final day of the Scottish Premiership season.
MOST CAPPED NORTHERN IRELAND PLAYERS OF ALL TIME
- Pat Jennings 119
- Aaron Hughes 112
- Steven Davis 111
- David Healy 95
- Mal Donaghy 91
- Maik Taylor 88
- Sammy McIlroy 88
- Keith Gillespie 86
- Gareth McAuley 80
- Jonny Evans 80