Aaron Hughes is looking forward to a fresh challenge at Hearts and believes his move to Tynecastle will enable him to extend his international career.
The 37-year-old defender joins the Jambos as a free agent, subject to international clearance, having recently returned from a spell with Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters.
The vastly experienced centre-half began his career at Newcastle United where he made his debut in a Champions League tie against Barcelona at Camp Nou back in 1997. Since then he has made over 450 English Premier League appearances for the likes of Newcastle, Aston Villa and Fulham.
He has enjoyed spells in Australia and India over the past year or so but is now ready to make his mark in a maroon jersey. Speaking to Hearts TV, Aaron said:
“I’m happy to be here and looking forward to keeping my standards up.
“The question I keep asking myself is whether I’m motivated to carry on and I certainly am. I feel fit and I’m motivated to play for as long as I can.
“It’s something new for me, which is what attracted me to come here. There’s a lot to play for here and we’re in a good position.
“The first half of the season has been fairly good and I believe there are exciting times ahead here.”
Aaron has also been an excellent servant for his country and his 103 appearances mean he has more caps than any other outfield player in Northern Ireland’s history. He was part of Michael O'Neill's Euro 2016 squad last summer and is now hoping his move to Hearts will enable him to extend his international career.
“Northern Ireland are obviously in the middle of a World Cup campaign and I was looking to come back and play at a level that will enable me to stay involved with the national team.
“So that was the idea behind coming back to the UK and obviously Hearts then came in for me and I believe this club is at a good level.
“First impressions of the club have been very good. I’ve had a few weeks off after coming back from India and I’m delighted to get going again now.
“I obviously know Austin MacPhee from the Northern Ireland setup and he was my first point of contact here.
“We had some initial conversations about a move. We’ve been in dialogue over the last couple of weeks, I know him well and know how he works so I feel this is the right move.”
The Northern Irishman’s career has seen him work under some of the biggest managers in the game, including the likes of Ruud Gullit, Sir Bobby Robson and Roy Hodgson. So what does he make of Hearts’ Head Coach Ian Cathro?
“First impressions are always a big thing and from speaking to Ian it’s clear that he’s very motivated and intelligent.
“You only need to look at the clubs he’s already worked for to see that he’s good. Listening to him talk about how he wants to play and what he wants to do here, you know, I must say I was extremely impressed by him.
“After speaking to him I was convinced that this would be the right challenge for me.”