Magpies midfielder Jeff Hughes ready for Cup trip to 'New York'
JEFF Hughes smiled. "I've played in New York before," he said. The real New York, that is. Not the New York Stadium, the stage of Notts County's FA Cup second round tie at Rotherham United. The two are very different.
One is across the Atlantic, the other is up the M1. And one has the Statue of Liberty as an icon, the other has Steve Evans as a manager.
It was way back in 2006 that Hughes, 27, played in NYC and it was a landmark moment in his career too, because the County Antrim-born midfielder made his international debut for Northern Ireland against Uruguay in Giants Stadium, the home of NFL side New York Giants.
He also played against Romania during a tour of the States at the end of his first season in English football, at Lincoln City.
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Tomorrow's Cup tie against the League Two Millers will be far less glamorous, but no less significant because not only will the winner bank £27,000 in prize money there is also the possibility of landing a big, big draw in the third round when the Premier League big boys like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool enter the competition.
After beating Portsmouth 2-0 at Fratton Park in the first round, the Magpies will be favourites to win because they are in sixth place in League One, 22 places above Rotherham, who are fourth in League Two, in the Football League.
They are also unbeaten in 19 away games, a club record run that stretches all the way back to when Keith Curle took charge in February, incredibly.
Hughes is not expecting an easy ride, however.
"They are a good team, Rotherham," he said. "We hope to go there and get a result, but it's a bit harder than just turning up. The gaffer will make sure we're all focused."
Hughes almost single-handedly fired Notts into the fourth round of the Cup last season, scoring all of their goals in 2-0 wins against non-league Sutton United and Doncaster Rovers, then in the Championship, in the second and third rounds.
The Magpies were then knocked out 1-0 by Stevenage, which was a big anti-climax because they lost to mega-rich Manchester City in a replay at exactly the same stage a year earlier, having almost beaten them at Meadow Lane.
"Even at Sutton, they missed a penalty before we scored," recalled Hughes, trying to explain how difficult away Cup ties can be.
"That was a very tricky tie because we didn't score a second goal until the very end.
"They gave us a very good game and I'm sure Rotherham will too.
"We need to work hard first and earn the right to play our stuff."
Victory for the Magpies will have a knock-on effect on their league schedule as they chase promotion into the Championship, however, because they are due to play Oldham Athletic at Meadow Lane on third round day, January 5. More league games will need to be rearranged too, if they progress even further.
Hughes is not thinking about any possible fixture problems though.
"It's not what us players are thinking about," he said.
"It would be nice to get through.
"You don't want to get beat no matter what game you're playing in.
"We want to keep our away form going as well.
"It's sort of been the backbone of our success here since the gaffer came in.
"It's unbelievable when you look at it like that and we'll try and add one more to it.
"I suppose it will be good for the club if we got through to the third round and got a big draw as well, but I'm sure Rotherham are thinking exactly the same thing."
They will be. The stakes are so very high.