Football: Hughes just happy to play his part

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The Independent Online
Mark Hughes, whose appearance as a substitute sparked Chelsea's revival at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, said yesterday that unlike some of his colleagues in the game, he was not going to complain about being left on the bench.

The Welsh international has been a revelation alongside Gianfranco Zola in the two months since the Sardinian's arrival from Parma. Yet despite those superb performances, Hughes was dropped by Ruud Gullit, the Chelsea manager, for the game with Liverpool, the Dutchman opting to pair Zola with fellow Italian Gianluca Vialli.

Gullit then brought Hughes off the bench to rescue what appeared to be a lost cause as the Blues retrieved a two-goal deficit to score four times without reply in the second half.

Hughes said yesterday that he was both "surprised and disappointed" when he discovered he had been omitted, but the former Manchester United striker stressed that he was not going to make a song and dance of his treatment by Gullit.

"I didn't expect it, but Ruud explained it to me and I accepted it," Hughes said. "The fact is that we've got three strikers in myself, Luca and Gianfranco, and that's proof of the progress we've made here.

"What's happened in the last couple of years is unbelievable. We're exciting the public and the press and it's just nice to be part of it. The ambition there is in this club is very important, and that's got to come ahead of my personal ambition.

"You want to see the club go places and I think we're really at the beginning of something special. I want to be part of it. Everybody wants to play, but if I can't play week in, week out I'm quite prepared to bide my time.

"It was a great performance in the second half, but I don't think we want to be two down at half-time every match," Hughes said. "When we can put two halves together like that we'll be dangerous."

Chelsea's inspired performance in the second half was proof that the trio can all play in the same side, with Zola's magnificent strike pulling them level before Vialli's double completed the comeback.

Zola agreed Vialli had passed a key test of his resolve. "Vialli is a great player, but it wasn't an easy game for him to have to come back into," he said.

"He had a lot of pressure on him and that made it very difficult for him to play well. But if you have the sort of big personality he has, you can rise to the occasion. In the first half the way Luca and I played was a bit limited, but when Mark came on the three of us played with intelligence and gave Liverpool some surprises they couldn't deal with.

"We're a strange team. We can make some banal mistakes and both the goals on Sunday were due to those sort of errors. In the second half, the whole team played very well and everybody playing like that made it possible for us to come back. But it would be hard to have to repeat that every match."