Hughes: Semi-final was an appetiser for what I expect tomorrow
Aaron Hughes will have his eyes on the prize when he leads Kerala Blasters FC into battle against Atlético de Kolkata in the final of Hero Indian Super 2016 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday evening. The Northern Ireland international has been pivotal for the Blasters at the back with his leadership qualities and instinct for danger that sees him at the right place at the right time more often than not. A threat from set-pieces as well, Hughes has scored once this season and is comfortable with the ball at his feet, boasting a passing accuracy of 76%. Kerala’s marquee man spoke to indiansuperleague.com ahead of the final against ATK. Here are the excerpts from the interview.
What’s your take on the Hero ISL trophy, you are playing for it tomorrow?
Yeah, it’s a lovely trophy and obviously sitting quite close to it (says looking at the trophy), and you know it would be nice to be closer to it tomorrow night.
What are your thoughts on playing ATK in the final?
It will be a tough game and they will be as determined as we are and I have played them before, so I know they will be dangerous and know what to expect on that front. The main thing is to look forward to the game and enjoy the occasion and then once it gets going just concentrate on all the good things that has got us this far.
How has your India experience been so far?
It’s been really great and I didn’t really have any expectations and came with an open mind and just wanted to enjoy my football, wanted to experience something new and try and learn something new even at my age. Overall, it has been fantastic and the main thing to come here was to be successful in football and we are almost there.
Were you surprised to see the passion Kerala fans have for their team?
I mean I had heard about it, regarding the football over here and it was one of the things that attracted me, and even in the top leagues in the world you don’t get that many fans and even then, the atmosphere and the noise and the passion in the stadium, you will get that only in few places and it was definitely a big attraction for me coming here.
Do you think now there are a few Kerala Blasters fans in Europe too?
Hopefully, I mean that’s a good thing with us having a little bit of success. It creates a bit of exposure elsewhere and few people back home, who did not know about the ISL, have started following it and I have been getting a few messages from home and I think even all the other foreign players are experiencing this.
Steve Coppell mentioned after your last match in Delhi that fans give the team wings and CK Vineeth mentioned it too, so do you agree with them?
Yeah, I mean that energy that they create can really give the lads confidence. It can pick them up at times when things are against us, so just playing in front of them is a great experience and the support that I have experienced is amazing and no matter what is the result, they have been fully behind us and it is nice knowing that we can come here in the final and give them something to cheer about.
As an opposing captain, what do you think are ATK’s strengths?
I can say so many things about them and they look like a team who sails and they are very well organised and they have good quality players in the right positions and after a few games it looked like they are a team who could reach the final and I think they were always a good team, you could say that about them.
As you know the tickets for the final have been sold out. What do you have to say about that?
It’s been crazy as the tickets sold out in a fortnight and the ones who did not get a ticket put all their energy and thoughts into good things.
Regardless of the result tomorrow, do you see yourself playing in yellow again?
I have no idea and I have not thought that far ahead and I want to focus on the present and tomorrow is the final step to get the ultimate prize and then once that is all done and dusted, I will consider what happens ahead but regardless of what happens in the future, I have had a great time over here.
Any last message for the fans…
I would say exactly the same, I want them to continue what they have been doing in the past few weeks. The semi-final was an appetiser for what I expect tomorrow night and if that is something to go by, then no message by me is going to get them any more motivated, and I think they will be there in numbers getting behind us and as a player that’s all you can ask for.