Aaron Hughes claims his extra gym session work helped him get back into the Fulham side and keep hold of a first-team jersey.

The Northern Ireland international has endured a mixed campaign as he faced a battle to secure a regular place in Cottagers’ boss Martin Jol’s first team.

However, after impressing whenever called upon, Hughes has now become a mainstay in the backline having again struck up a solid defensive partnership with Brede Hangeland as Fulham have pulled well clear of any relegation issues thanks to six points from games against Bolton and Norwich.

The duo also did well against Manchester United and Chelsea in recent matches with Hughes claiming the hard work he did when not in the side eventually paid off for him.

He said “From a personal perspective, it’s been nice to get back in the team.

“Not playing every week has given me a little more time to work on different things in the gym.

“I’ve tried to get a little bit stronger and a little bit quicker, and work on my power.

“The biggest thing when you’re not playing is you lose that edge that you only really get in games so the only way you can keep that up is to try and maintain that through little bits and pieces that you do around the training ground and in the gym. I think I’ve done okay since I came back so it looks like it paid off.

“I’ve tried to keep on top of that, so when I did get called back into the side, I’m ready to go.

“I feel good, I’m even a little disappointed there’s only five games left because, with missing some of the games through the season, I feel there’s plenty more still left in me.”