It would be absurd for Aaron Hughes to complain about his lot after a career where he has amassed 104 international caps while also playing for managers of the calibre of Bobby Robson and Kenny Dalglish.
But the 37 year-old Northern Ireland centre-half, whose far-travelled career has now deposited him in Scotland, concedes there’s something missing.
Despite playing over 500 games, he has yet to win a trophy, hence part of the attraction of signing for Hearts, for whom he is set to make his debut in today’s Scottish Cup clash at Raith Rovers.
He’s come close, featuring on the losing side in the Europa League final for Fulham against Atletico Madrid in 2010. As recently as last month, he felt the anguish of losing the Indian Super League final on penalties to Atletico de Kolkata during a spell at Kerala Blasters.
“I’ve had a couple of runners-up [medals] but a [winner’s] medal of some sort would be nice,” said Hughes, who has also played for Newcastle United and Aston Villa, among others. “When I’m finished, and looking back on all the games and the different things that have happened, it’s knowing that, at one point, yes, we were actually champions of something. If you ask any footballer, they’d say the same thing.”
As far as he’s travelled to play, including Australia, he’s never come across a manager significantly younger than himself. But 30-year-old Ian Cathro has already succeeded in making an impression on Hughes.
“Yeah, that’s new,” said Hughes, in reference to Cathro’s youth. “I’m tempted to say I still feel 25 in my head so I don’t think about it too much. He’s very focused and very motivated. He has that strong presence about him. When you’ve got that, it doesn’t really matter what age you are.”
Hughes is determined to show he is worth longer than a six-month contract. Despite the short-term nature of the deal, he will base his family in Edinburgh. “To do it properly I’ve got to commit to it and if that’s getting the kids settled in school and feeling like a home then we’ll do that for now,” he said.
Cathro confirmed new signings will feature in his side to face Raith Rovers, though he admitted right-back Andraz Sturna, one of four new arrivals, was the most lacking in recent match practice.
The head coach dismissed reports of a move for Rangers winger Michael O’Halloran but revealed Stevie May, linked with a loan move to Tynecastle from Sheffield Wednesday, fitted Hearts’ profile.
“It’s better speculation than O’Halloran!” he said. “It’s not true but I can see how someone maybe came up with that one.”