Melbourne City defender and Northern Ireland international Aaron Hughes says getting out on the pitch and playing for the Club has been an important step for him to establish himself in the side.
Hughes made his first appearance for the Club against the Wanderers in Round 6 before succumbing to a calf injury but the 36-year-old worked his way back into the side, picking up his first start and goal against Sydney FC. Hughes admits the start to his Hyundai A-League career hasn’t been up to his lofty standards but says he’s making massive steps to returning to the form that saw him become an English Premier League stalwart.
“It’s been a relief to just get back on the pitch for a start, I was just happy to be back on the pitch and playing again,” Hughes said.
“Any player will tell you the difference between training and playing, there's nothing really apart from games to get match fitness. It’s almost a cliche but you can train as much as you want and do everything you can but it only gives you a good base before going into a game. I think anyone that hasn't played for a while would be saying the same thing so it’s nothing that I'm really concerned about, that will come with time and minutes on the pitch.”
After picking up four points against last year’s Grand Finalists and an important three point haul against the Wanderers in the last three weeks, confidence is at a high for City, but Hughes admits that sentiment was there during the early stages of the season as well.
“There’s always been confidence,” he said.
“The lads here are good lads, they work hard, they’ve got good quality and there's always been a confidence that we can get good results if we do things the right way.
“When you go through those sticky spells, it’s not panicking and it’s not getting down and worrying about it. It's about trusting the work you do during the week, trusting the beliefs that we have here, what we know will get us results and just having that mentality thinking the season not won or lost in one game three weeks ago.
“It’s a long season and there’s a long way to go. As long as we keep improving every game, that's our goal and that will give us better chances of winning every week.”
After only four appearances for the Club, Hughes has already seen how the competitive the A-League can be and feels that if his side can continue their recent run of form, they can be challenging deep into the FInals Series.
“That's the thing I’m really learning about the league at the moment, it's really competitive,” he said.
“If you’re a team that goes on a 3 or 4 game run, all of a sudden they’re up there with you, likewise you lose a couple on the spin and you’re falling away. You look at the top 5 or 6 at the minute and they are all in it.
“We have it all to play for, there is still a lot of games to go and a lot of football to be played. It’s about pacing yourselves and making sure we hit (our straps) at the right time. We are in a good vein of form but now it's about maintaining that and making sure we continue our high standards and if we do that, i think we have as good of a chances as any.”