DARLINGTON will be without Liam Hughes until next month for personal reasons and say they will be fully supportive of the defender during his time away from the club.

The 26-year-old is at the Sporting Chance Clinic in Hampshire, a charity first set up by former Arsenal defender Tony Adams, aimed at providing specialist addiction and recovery treatment for athletes.

Their website says: "We work with individuals who are suffering from addictive disorders such as alcoholism, the misuse of other substances, or gambling."

Hughes missed Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Alfreton, and Quakers manager Tommy Wright expects he will be available for selection on Saturday, February 9 by which time he will be have been at Sporting Chance for four weeks.

Quakers chief executive David Johnston explained: “Liam has been suffering from significant personal problems for some time and as a result, is now receiving professional help.

“The club is fully supportive of Liam and we wish him well as he goes through the recovery process.

“Consequently he will not be available for selection for a number of weeks but Liam wanted to let our fans know the reason behind his absence.

“Despite his current problems, he has managed to deliver some outstanding performances for the club and I would be grateful if you could support and respect Liam as he takes these steps along the road to recovery.”

A club statement added: “Everyone at Darlington Football Club would like to wish Liam all the best, and we look forward to seeing him wear a Darlington shirt again soon.”

Hughes has been suffering with a shoulder problem in recent weeks after dislocating it in a match last month at Chester.

Given the nature of his unavailability over the coming weeks it is to the player and club’s credit that they chose to be transparent in revealing the reason for his absence rather than claiming it was due to his shoulder.

“He was happy for the supporters to know because he already feels like he’s been lying to them,” explained Wright.

Hughes has made 21 appearances this season, though only the first of them was as a midfielder, which is the position Wright brought him in last summer to play.

Not being fit for midfield has led to Hughes switching to defence where he has become a key player in the team and a popular figure among Quakers supporters.

This week online fans have shown support, something that Hughes and his family are understood to be appreciative of.

Darlington are at home to Spennymoor Town on Saturday, and in a show of support fans are due to chant Hughes’ name in the fifth minute of the contest.

Wright said: “He needs professional help and we have made the right decision in sending him there.

“I knew that he would get the response that he has done from the fans and it’s great. I spoke to his Mrs last night about it and I know Liam has seen bits of it too.”

Hughes has previously been candid in talking of his issues with drink and drugs as well as struggles with mental health.

In Hughes’ absence Simon Ainge, who would prefer to play as a striker, started the match at Alfreton and is due to remain in the starting line-up as a defender for the foreseeable future.