O'Neill - Hughes return a positive

Northern Ireland boss delighted to have defender back

Last Updated: 20/02/12 5:23pm

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Aaron Hughes: Michael O'Neill delighted to have experienced defender back in the fold

Aaron Hughes: Michael O'Neill delighted to have experienced defender back in the fold

Sky Bet

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill has expressed his delight that Aaron Hughes has come out of international retirement.

The 32-year-old Fulham defender called time on his international career last September after captaining the nation for eight years.

O'Neill wanted to have the 79-cap stopper available for the start of their 2014 World Cup qualifiers in September and he is thrilled by Hughes' attitude of wanting to play at the first available opportunity.

Hughes has been called up for their friendly with Norway later this month and former Shamrock Rovers boss O'Neill is happy with the player's commitment.

Character

"Getting Aaron in for this game wasn't a top priority, the top priority was having Aaron available in September for the start of the qualification games," explained O'Neill.

"But he made it clear that he wanted to be back in from the start. That is a testament to what Aaron is like as a character.

"Once we sat down and chatted about things he came back to me very quickly and said he wanted to be back and to be involved from the off. I gave him the option of some more time but he was committed and focused to be in as soon as possible.

"We have a core of players with Northern Ireland who have performed admirably in recent years, they're a tight group and the loss of a player from that can cause damage - especially one as influential as Aaron. For him to reverse his decision and be available again is a big positive."

Captaincy

Rangers midfielder Steven Davis was expected to captain the side following Hughes' retirement and O'Neill has not thought about who will have the armband against Norway.

"The captaincy is not something I've given that much consideration to at the moment," he continued.

"There are options, but we have three friendlies coming up so I'll look at the situation and have the right person in place for the Russia match."

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