Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hughes Desperate for Encore; Palace Playoff Hero Wants to Stay at Selhurst

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Hughes Desperate for Encore; Palace Playoff Hero Wants to Stay at Selhurst

Article excerpt

Byline: WAYNE VEYSEY

WHEN Michael Hughes squeezed home the penalty that sealed Crystal Palace's place in the Division One playoff final, he became an instant hero in the eyes of Eagles fans.

Cries of "Hughesy, Hughesy" rang around the Stadium of Light and the midfielder responded with a jubilant jig in front of the ecstatic supporters.

But Hughes's excellent rapport with the Palace faithful, nurtured during a highly productive first season at Selhurst Park, could be coming to an end.

The 32-year-old will play his last game for the club at Cardiff if he is not offered an extension to his current one-year contract. "I'm still waiting to hear something," said Hughes.

"If Palace offer me something I will stay here, there's no doubt about that.

I'd love to stay. There are two or three other offers in the pipeline so we will have to wait and see."

Described by Iain Dowie earlier this season as "technically one of the best players I have worked with", Hughes has been a key figure in Palace's rise to the playoff final.

His intelligent promptings from central midfield have provided the ammunition for the fleet-footed youngsters Andrew Johnson, Julian Gray and Wayne Routledge.

Hughes, who spent three years at West Ham in the mid-1990s, is looking forward to pitting his wits against his former club at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday week.

"I loved it at West Ham," he said.

"They are a smashing club with fantastic, knowledgeable fans who were always good to me. I will always be grateful to Harry Redknapp for taking me there. He was a good manmanagerand knew his football. It's nice that it's against my old club. I probably won't fully appreciate it until both sets of fans are in Cardiff.

The fact that it's a London derby makes it extra special.

"We have nothing to fear. We know it's going to be a tough game - they have a lot of experienced players who have been in the Premiership - but we are a good side and we are going to be hard to play against."

Hughes believes Palace's unexpected rise from fourth bottom in December has been a "massive achievement" but says it will soon be forgotten if they lose in Cardiff. …

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