BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
AARON HUGHES is determined to ensure Hearts are the talk of the Toon next season after comparing life in Edinburgh to the pressure cooker of Newcastle.
The 37-year-old has handed the Jambos a massive boost ahead of their encounter against Aberdeen tomorrow by penning a new one-year deal with the capital club.
And he admits the prospect of another campaign in Auld Reekie was too good to turn down, having enjoyed up the fierce rivalry with Hibs, sell-outs at Tynecastle and the opportunity to be closer to his family in Tyneside since arriving in January.
It is a passion Hughes appreciates as a veteran of the Magpies’ battles with Sunderland, Birmingham derbies during his days with Aston Villa and several all-London encounters when he was on the books of Fulham.
The Northern Ireland stalwart said: “Newcastle is a good example to compare Edinburgh to. It’s a city where the people are just so passionate about their football.
“That’s a great thing. You know you are playing for a team with a fanbase that cares. They’re not just turning up to sit and watch.
“You speak to people and they want to talk about football, it’s their life. That’s what they love.
“The atmosphere at times means the fans can get a bit frustrated but I have found the atmosphere to be good. You appreciate the fact they are going to voice their opinions, good or bad, and you’d rather play in a situations like that, than play for a crowd that doesn’t care.
“I see that from both sides of the city. When you have two teams in the city and there’s a rivalry there which is great, too. Both sides are so passionate about their team and you want to be involevd in those occasions and rivalries.
“I just enjoy playing my football here.”
The past 10 weeks, however, have been infuriating for Hughes, who has been sidelined with a persistent calf complaint.
He last featured for the Jambos in their galling 3-1 Scottish Cup defeat at Hibs but has returned to full fitness this week and is in contention to play against the Dons.
And Hughes is adamant his injury woes never sowed any seeds of doubt regarding his ability to carry on at the top level for another campaign.
He continued: “It’s been frustrating because of the length of time – but the injury was a little niggle. It took a few weeks to figure out exactly what it was. Because it went away so quick, I was able to come back to about 80 or 90 per cent fitness and then it would creep in again.
“Once we figured out what it was and realised it just needed a bit more time, it was fine. There was never a doubt in my mind that I couldn’t continue. I wouldn’t commit to another year if I didn’t think I was able to.”
Hughes has no doubt Hearts’ fortunes under Ian Cathro, who has claimed just six wins from his 22 games in charge of the men in maroon, will turn around.
He added: “Every manager is different in terms of how they play, what movements they want here and there. Once everyone starts getting used to the movements and they become more natural, it starts to flow a bit better.
“Sometimes it’s hard because the opposition don’t allow you to play. It’s physical, they go up against you and it’s the old cliche that you’ve got to win the battle first before you start playing.
“We have done some good things, just maybe not had the results we deserve. It’s not hugely different or overly complicated here. It just demands a bit of concentration on style, hard work, and I think we’ll see the rewards of it.”