Hearts veteran Aaron Hughes has vowed to continue playing for Northern Ireland as long as he still has a club career.
The four home nations’ most capped defender ever turns 39 this year and today marks the 20th anniversary of the 110-cap international’s senior Northern Ireland debut.
Having already retired once in 2011 only to be coaxed back by Michael O’Neill’s arrival, Hughes appeared a prime candidate to call it a day again after Northern Ireland missed out on a place in this summer’s World Cup via the play-offs.
However, while there have been no long-term definitive decisions over his future, Hughes was still part of the team that faced South Korea in a friendly at Windsor Park yesterday, although he had to come off after just 18 minutes due to injury.
The former Fulham and Newcastle defender insists he has given little thought to whether he will be available when the Nations League begins in September or the Euros qualifiers start next March, yet he has declared that he would never end his Northern Ireland career while still in club employment.
“I think my decision to play on won’t just be based on playing on for Hearts or Northern Ireland,” explained Hughes, whose deal at Tynecastle expires at the end of this campaign.
“If I do decide to play on and the chance to play for Northern Ireland is still there, I’ll still do it. It’ll not be a case of me playing club football but not international football, it’s more my decision whether or not to continue playing football, that’ll sort itself out.
“The first decision to make at the end of the season is whether or not to continue playing football, then other decisions will follow.
“I’m not even looking past the end of the month, I’m really not. My mind changes so much. One day I’ll get up and think, ‘I can keep going on forever’ then there are other days when you think, ‘It’s time, I’ve had enough’, which is why I’m trying not to think about it too much.”