Hughes to quit N.Ireland duty
Fulham defender wants to extend club career for as long as possible
Last Updated: September 24, 2011 7:14pm
Hughes: The defender's last international match will be against Italy
Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes has announced he will retire from international football after the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign in a bid to prolong his club career.
The Fulham centre-half hopes to lead the country out for the final time at Windsor Park against Estonia on 7th October before making his last appearance against Italy four days later.
Hughes, who will be 32 in November, wants to give himself every chance to continue playing in the Premier League for as long as possible and has decided his country's arduous World Cup 2014 qualification schedule - which includes trips to Russia, Azerbaijan and Israel - is too much.
"After thinking long and hard, I have decided to retire from international football after the final two Euro 2012 qualifiers, to concentrate on my club career and hopefully prolong it for another few years," Hughes said.
"I have always felt very proud and privileged to play for my country and it has also been a great honour to captain the side.
"It has not been an easy decision, however, after speaking with players, managers and my family, I knew it was the right time to call it a day. I also knew in my own head it was the right time.
"I would like to thank everyone for their support over the years - managers, players, fans and my family. I have played under some great managers and have enjoyed every minute playing for Northern Ireland and hopefully we can get a good finish to the Euro 2012 campaign."
Northern Ireland manager Nigel Worthington, whose own contract is yet to be renewed beyond the current campaign, offered a glowing tribute to his skipper.
"After many discussions with Aaron over the last couple of months, Aaron has decided that at the end of the current campaign he will call it a day on his international career," said Worthington.
"I know this was a difficult decision for Aaron, but it is one we have to respect. Obviously from my point of view and also Northern Ireland's, it is a huge loss.
"Aaron is a truly excellent professional and a real gentleman. It is always sad to lose a player of Aaron's calibre - but Aaron Hughes is not only a great player, he is also a great captain and person."