Hughes had gone 18 months without making a competitive appearance before signing a two-year deal at the Goldsands Stadium last month.
But the 33-year-old has featured in the Cherries’ last three fixtures and capped a fine display in the win over Yeovil last weekend with a stunning free-kick to set Paul Groves’ side on their way to collecting all three points at Huish Park.
Fletcher has been impressed with Hughes’ performances in recent weeks and believes the former Portsmouth midfielder could become a key player for the Cherries this season.
“I think he’s been great since he came back,” he told afcb.co.uk. “He was waiting for a call from a club in the summer, and thankfully Paul Groves knew how much of an asset Richard could be and made the call.
“He had to get fit and he worked really hard by himself so that he could join the first team in training, and he has probably come back ahead of schedule.
“If you had told him in the summer that by now he would have made a couple of first team appearances, he probably would have laughed at you. But it’s testament to the work and the effort he has put in, and now he’s enjoying the rewards.
“It’s a massive achievement because he’s not a young lad anymore. He’s still got so much more to give and to offer, but it does get harder to stay fit when you’re older to keep up with the younger lads because they get stronger, quicker and more athletic each year.
“So, it’s a great credit to him that he managed to put himself into contention and then get into the team.”
Fletcher, who played alongside Hughes for six years in his first spell with the club, added that the former Scotland international had returned a better player after a successful nine-year stay at Portsmouth, which included over 100 appearances in the top two tiers.
“We have got a big squad and players who have come from bigger clubs, but they haven’t played the amount of games Richard has played at the top level,” he said.
“His game hasn’t really changed that much since he left, he’s just got better at what he does. That comes from playing in the Championship and the Premier League and being around the top players week in, week out.
“But when you get older you have to adapt your game to your capabilities, and he has done that superbly. He’s so much better at what he does now than he was ten years ago, and he was very good at it then.
“He’s all about dictating the play, playing in front of the back four and keeping the ball, and there’s probably nobody in the league who does it better than Richard.”