Jeff Hughes completes 90 minutes on his comeback from injuryJeff Hughes stepped up his return from a long standing injury in today's Final Third Development Cup draw against Wigan Athletic, playing the full 90 minutes.
The winger, who has been sidelined since January, was delighted to be back in action but admit he still has work ahead: “It’s the first time I’ve played being pain free so it was a big step.
“I’m loving it. Just to be back playing you expect everything to be back to how it was before but it’s not the end of it. I have a programme and I’ve got to keep to and keep progressing and try to get back to where I was before.”
As he agreed it has been a long road to recovery for Hughes who has only been back training for a matter of days: “It’s literally been four days training and this is the first game I’ve had since I had the injections. The other games I’ve played it wasn’t quite right so I’ve only really had four days and the game today without it actually hurting me so it’s still early days.”
Talking about the recovery process he said: “I needed another operation which set it back to square one, then I was doing recovery work over pre-season and had my injections a couple of weeks ago, they’ve really helped so hopefully now this is the final stretch.
“It’s hard. At the start you’re kind of away from it and you don’t really see the training and you’re kind of just a sideshow, once you’re back in it you really start to miss it and see what you’re missing."
Adding: “That’s good though because it gives you that bit extra to get back in the team and back in the squad.”
The Irishman spoke of his determination to repay the faith shown in him while out: “The Club has been very good to me.
“The chairman offered me anything I needed, the gaffer came to the house to make sure I was okay, the physio was bringing me ice and would take me to hospital. I couldn’t have asked for anything more really.
“I want to get back and earn my keep.”
Despite trying to make a comeback Hughes still struggled with pain but since having injections has come closer to making a return: “Before it was painful it wasn’t doing stuff properly now it’s playing free and doing stuff right so I’ll probably be a sight tomorrow when I get out of bed.
“The plan today was to play 70 minutes but I was okay and still making runs from box to box so I was able to stay on for the full 90 so that’s a positive.”
Match practice is one thing the former Notts County man is short of but he’s sure he’ll get up to speed sooner rather than later: “I got frustrated at times, simple things. The ball bouncing off you, people skipping inside you, you know they are going to do it but you just don’t quite get there.
“It’s frustrating but it’s these things you’ve got to keep working at and it’ll come, eventually. It’s been a long road so a couple of weeks isn’t going to make much more of a difference.”
Hughes also spoke of his pride at seeing teammate Conor McLaughlin play in Northern Ireland’s 2-1 win over Hungary: “It’s nice to see and he played very well. He was very good on the ball, very confident and looked an international player so I’m chuffed to bits for him.”