TWENTY years after a very brief stint with Edgeworth, Adam Hughes will return to the top Northern NSW division on Sunday hoping to slow down the Eagles.
Hughes, 37 next month, will make his debut for Charlestown at Lisle Carr Oval in round 13 of the NPL following a professional career spanning 18 years.
After starting in the NSL with Newcastle United in 2001, Hughes played at Wollongong Wolves before a stints with Doncaster Rovers in England and Sligo and Drogheda in Ireland. He returned to Australia in 2009 and played 75 A-League games across stays at Adelaide and Perth. The midfielder then spent seven seasons in China before coming home to Newcastle late last year.
He signed with Charlestown on May 1 but a hamstring injury and wait for an international transfer clearance delayed his debut. He was glad to finally be cleared for the Blues, who are fifth on 16 points, a point outside the top four and four behind third-placed Edgeworth.
His only other stint in the NNSW top division was a handful of games with the Eagles at just 17, before he signed with Newcastle. Hughes has ties with Charlestown, where his brother, Ben, played before retiring in 2016.
"I spoke to a few clubs and decided to go with Charlestown," Hughes said. "I knew a few of the boys there. There were a fair few season when I came back, when Ben was at the club, I'd go in and train with them in the off-seasons.
"I've watched a couple of games and the boys are starting to do all right. It's a very close table and it can go either way for the top teams. It's just a matter of consistency now."
Coach David Tanchevski said Hughes was set to start in midfield with Musa Kamara overseas.
"I hope I can come into the team and just bring some control to the tempo of the game," Hughes said. "If I can control and dictate the speed of play, I think we can get into a bit more of a rhythm. I've seen a few of the games, not just with Charlestown, and the games can go helter skelter for 60 minutes and then it opens up a lot.
"If you can play with some consistency and keep the team compact, and play a good brand of football, those last 30 minutes can be crucial in this league."
Charlestown have not played since a 3-1 win over Broadmeadow on May 26, while Edgeworth are backing up for a third game in eight days after beating Valentine 5-0 on Wednesday night to book their spot alongside Maitland in the FFA Cup round of 32.
"I saw a bit of Edgeworth the other night in the Cup game," Hughes said.
"They are a quality side and you can see they are coached very well. They are a very good unit and the way they play, I think they are one of the better teams. It will be a difficult match and we've got to respect them, but believe in ourselves and in what we can do."
Eagles coach Damian Zane was glad to have his side back in the Cup main draw for a fourth time after they fell short last year.
"The performance was good again all-round, so I'm pretty happy," Zane said. "They are big nights and exciting, so it's good to be back."
Jose Atayde came off with a shoulder injury against Valentine and will be rested. Daniel McBreen returns from coaching duties with the Guam national side.
Elsewhere Sunday, Valentine host Maitland at CB Complex and leaders Weston welcome Adamstown. On Saturday, Hamilton are away to Lambton Jaffas from 2.30pm and Broadmeadow are at home against Lake Macquarie at 5pm.