Defender Aaron Hughes was intrigued by the fresh approach at Hearts

20 January 2017 03:39

Aaron Hughes admits he was intrigued by the prospect of working with young coaching pair Ian Cathro and Austin MacPhee at Hearts.

The 103-times capped Northern Ireland international is set to make his Hearts debut against Raith Rovers in the William Hill Scottish Cup on Sunday after becoming part of Cathro's new-look defence.

The 37-year-old is seven years older than the Hearts head coach and the same age as MacPhee, who has worked with the former Newcastle and Fulham player at international level.

"I think it makes it interesting," Hughes said. "It's quite fresh, having a different way of looking at football sometimes and how to play. That being said, they are both extremely motivated people and very sure of how they want the team to play and when we train everything is of a high standard. Short and sharp but it's intense and that's good too.

"While there are people saying negative things about it, I think there are a lot of positives about it and that was one of the things that attracted me."

Hughes has been impressed with MacPhee in his role as assistant to Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill.

Hughes said: "Both the manager and Austin pay a lot of attention to the smaller details that are sometimes the difference between winning and losing a football match. I have found that myself over the years, the margins sometimes are very, very small.

"It looks like a competitive league, if you maybe take a couple of bigger teams out everyone else can beat each other on a given day. Then you have to look at the small details, the little things that, if you can consistently get right over 90 minutes, you give yourself a better chance of winning. That's what Austin is really good at.

"It gives younger players a belief that, yes it could be a scrap but we have got this information and have worked on this all week and are confident we can go out and this could be the difference."

Hughes is looking forward to experiencing Scottish football for the first time after spells in Australia and India, where he latterly played for Kerala Blasters.

"It was one of the reasons I went abroad, to try something new and see how things are done differently," he said. "I learnt a lot of things and enjoyed it at the same time.

"India was an eye-opener every day, it's so diverse. You can be in a city that's absolutely packed, crazy, noisy to another city that was quite quiet and peaceful.

"My first game was up in the north east and we were driving back from training and a baboon runs across the street, hurdles someone's fence and into their garden. Things like that don't happen here."

Hughes is one of four new signings and Cathro is not desperate to add another before the end of January. He dismissed reports linking him with interest in Rangers winger Michael O'Halloran as "pure speculation".

Cathro, who has allowed five players to move on, said: "We are still looking at some possible things we may be able to do but it gets more and more difficult the later things go and it probably becomes a little bit more uncontrollable as well. There is no major stress.

"We would like to be able to do something else, if we can it will be because it's the right thing, if not then okay. We can also improve the players just by work."

Source: PA