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Hughes admits Fulham victory could kick-start Newcastle season
AARON HUGHES admits Fulham could prove the fall-guys who helped kick-start Newcastle United's season.
The Cottagers looked to be on course for their second successful result in the North-East in the space of a fortnight when they entered the final five minutes of Saturday's game at St James' Park drawing 0-0.
However, a failure to adequately close down Hatem Ben Arfa enabled the Frenchman to fire home an 86th-minute winner that lifted some of the despondency that had accompanied Newcastle's traumatic start to the campaign.
“We didn't want to be the team that kick-started things for Newcastle, especially not in the last five minutes, but maybe we did,” said Hughes, who made 279 senior appearances for the Magpies before leaving in 2005 to join Aston Villa, then Fulham.
“You could feel the relief around the place when that goal went in, especially with the timing of it because it didn't give us much time to get back.
“That could be the win that starts things for them. For us, we've just got to keep going and put it behind us.”
Hughes was always a popular figure during his time on Tyneside, playing at both centre-half and full-back after emerging from Newcastle's youth ranks.
Graeme Souness' decision to sell him for just £1m in 2005 is widely regarded as one of the many mistakes made by the Scotsman during his ill-fated reign, and Hughes admits he still retains a soft spot for his first employers.
The 33-year-old experienced plenty of ups and downs during his nine years as a Newcastle player, and feels the latest bout of drama and controversy is merely par for the course.
“It just comes with being up here,” he said. “It's either one thing or the other, isn't it? From a player's point of view, you just keep your head down, keep working hard and enjoy the good times when they come.
“When things become a little bit tough, you've just got to work harder to get through them. When times are good up here, you get rewarded for it and everyone certainly lets you know.”
Hughes has also enjoyed success at Fulham – he was a member of the side that lost the Europa League final to Atletico Madrid in 2010 – and while Martin Jol's side are now a point behind Newcastle, the Northern Irishman feels a top-half finish is attainable.
“If we can be pushing up and getting into the top ten, then that would be progress,” he said. “When you look at the top six and the teams that are there just about every year, then you've really got three or four spaces for everyone else, and in any season, anyone can fill those.
“So for a lot of teams, if you can push into the top ten, it's been a pretty successful season given that there are a lot of established teams above that.”
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