Around the same time as a gangling teenage forward called Andy Carroll was starting to show a bit of promise in Newcastle United's academy, Aaron Hughes was allowed to join Aston Villa, with indecently little fanfare and, at £1m, costing a pittance for a defender who had served the club with understated excellence for the best part of a decade.
Five years on, that Carroll lad's not done too badly, but the freak of nature his team-mates nickname "Avatar" after James Cameron's blockbuster drew a blank before joining up with the England squad, largely thanks to the one who got away.
Hughes is nearing 400 Premier League appearances and, at 31, has plenty left in the tank, given his display in negating Carroll. Brede Hangeland, Hughes' central-defensive partner, was equally impressive, and while the visitors matched the imposing Norwegian with Carroll whenever they could, Hughes was equally effective when called on. "Aaron was excellent," the Fulham manager, Mark Hughes, said after watching his side's eighth Premier League draw this season.
Hughes made light of a five-inch height disadvantage to win his aerial duels with Carroll, the Newcastle No 9 perhaps weighed down not so much by an expectant Geordie public as by his awful ponytail. When Carroll did evade his minders, he was thwarted by Kevin Nolan, who inadvertently blocked his team-mate's volley, then a stunning save by Mark Schwarzer.
Hughes added: "Brede gets more of the headlines, but he appreciates what having Aaron alongside gives him. We looked rock-solid."
Man of the match Hughes.
Match rating 5/10.
Possession Newcastle 58% Fulham 42%
Shots on target Newcastle 5 Fulham 4
Referee L Probert (Gloucestershire) Att 44,686Reuse content