CARL McHugh believes that giving up the Fir Park captaincy has freed him up to show the best form of his Motherwell career.

The versatile Irishman, who has played in both central defence and midfield for the Steelmen this season, feels that the weight of responsibility that came with wearing the armband affected his consistency last season.

Now that responsibility has passed to his teammate Peter Hartley, McHugh feels that he has been able to contribute more effectively on the park for his team.

“I’m happier with my play,” McHugh said. “I’ve been performing consistently better over the course of this season.

“We spoke about it at the time and the decision was made, and I’ve been really happy with how it has gone.

“It’s been a smooth transition and Peter has been brilliant with it. He’s a great leader for the team and I’m there to help him with whatever he needs.

“It’s not changed anything in the dressing room, it’s improved us if anything.

“It lets me concentrate on my own game. That was something I was wary of last year, because even though the team was successful, my level of consistency wasn’t where I wanted it to be.

“Now I think that has improved this year from a personal point of view.

“I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s weird to say that because we haven’t been getting the results, but I’ve been enjoying my football and I’m probably a lot happier with my form than I was at this point last season.”

That’s not to say that McHugh arrived at his decision to relinquish the captaincy lightly.

The 25-year-old agonised over the call during the summer, and ironically, sought the guidance of close friend Hartley before approaching his manager, Stephen Robinson.

“[Peter] was the first person I spoke to about it actually, we’ve know each other for years,” he said.

“We played together at Plymouth and we’ve been really close friends.

“I know he is someone I can trust in football. I completely trusted him to confide in him right at the start.

“It was difficult, but I felt it was the right time. Sometimes you make a decision and go with your gut, and that’s what I did.

“I’m happy with how it has panned out this season so far, definitely.”

McHugh’s boss is certainly happy with his contribution to date this season, with manager Robinson comparing him to Hearts midfielder Peter Haring following the win over Dundee last week.

The ugly side of the game that McHugh specialises in means he doesn’t always receive the plaudits his manager feels he deserves, but that is of little concern to the selfless McHugh.

“I know the manager trusts me and my teammates appreciate what I do, so I don’t really care about anything else on the outside,” he said.

“I probably do one of those jobs that doesn’t really get noticed, but I love doing what I do, and I don’t care if I don’t get the credit to be honest.”

McHugh is likely to be deployed in the thick of the midfield battleground at Ibrox tomorrow as Motherwell look to take advantage of any tiredness suffered by Rangers after their European exertions in Russia.

“They’ll have had that big game in Moscow and with the travelling involved it will be a tough tie for them, but we are really focusing on ourselves,” he said.

“We’re coming off the back of two good results last week. We’re hopeful that has turned around the start that we haven’t been happy with, and we’re going there full of confidence really that we can go and get a result.”

Charles Dunne is unlikely to be risked by Motherwell as he recovers from a groin injury, but should be available after the international break.