Fulham First XI

Wednesday 13 November 2013 12:00

Popular defender Aaron Hughes recalls his footballing past in our First XI feature.

First football memory

The first big moment I remember was the 1986 FA Cup Final with Liverpool beating Everton 3-1 at Wembley. Gary Lineker had put Everton 1-0 up, but Liverpool came back with Ian Rush (pictured) getting two and Craig Johnston also on target. If I remember correctly, Liverpool had just won the league too, with Everton finishing second.

First team supported

That would be Liverpool, who were and still are very popular back home in Northern Ireland. When I first started taking an interest in football, they were one of the leading teams in the world.

First footballing hero

Growing up I used to love watching Ian Rush play for Liverpool. During the 1980s he was one of the best strikers in English football. He scored so many goals and he made it look very easy when in reality it isn’t.

First pair of boots

I’d imagine it was a pair of adidas ones, I always seemed to wear them.

First team played for

I played for my school in Cookstown first, but the first real team would have been Portadown Boys. I spent a bit of time at Manchester United’s School of Excellence before playing for Lisburn Youth. Whilst playing for them at the Milk Cup I was spotted and subsequently signed for Newcastle United.

First position

Believe it or not, I actually started out as a striker and even played as a right winger. I don’t think I played in defence until I was about 14. It’s funny how many defenders started as forward players – but I think it helped me to understand the game a bit more.  

First manager

Kevin Keegan was the manager when I first arrived at Newcastle as a YTS, but Kenny Dalglish was the man that handed me my professional debut. Dalglish was the manager I first really worked with.

First professional game

That came in November 1997 against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League at the Nou Camp – I was only 18. It was some introduction, and obviously a moment I’ll never forget. Barca had Rivaldo, Josep Guardiola, Luis Figo and a very young Xavi in their team that night and they won 1-0.

First Fulham game

It was at the start of the 2007/08 season having just joined from Aston Villa. We drew 1-1 with Wigan Athletic at their ground and after Clint Dempsey put us in front, Jason Koumas scored a late penalty. We deserved more than a point that day! I think I’m the only player that’s left at Fulham from the squad that day.

First professional goal

During the 1999/2000 season we beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 at St James’ Park and I opened the scoring early on with a header from Kieron Dyer’s cross. Alan Shearer grabbed five, with Dyer and Gary Speed also on target. It was Bobby Robson’s first game as manager, so it wasn’t a bad start.

First senior game for Northern Ireland

I’ve been very fortunate to have had a long international career, and the honour of captaining my country too. But it all started in March 1998 in a 1-0 defeat of Slovakia in Belfast – Steve Lomas scored the only goal of the game.