Chris Hughton keeps Norwich City’s feet firmly on ground
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Norwich City’s stellar 10-match Premier League unbeaten run has forced Chris Hughton to face another line of post-match questioning in recent weeks.
Victory over Wigan - courtesy of Wes Hoolahan’s headed reply to Shaun Maloney’s leveller following Anthony Pilkington’s first half finish - moved City into the top seven and closer to the scrap for European glory than a relegation battle.
But Hughton reiterated there is no temptation to look up instead of down with a festive period that brings games against West Brom, Chelsea and champions Manchester City.
“No. We’re doing okay at the moment,” he said. “That is the best way for us. We know how we have to compete in every game. If that is the case then we have a chance of doing okay but we must not lose sight of the reality. For me it is very easy (to stay focused). I know where we are as a football club and where other clubs are and the budgets they have. We, as a team, have to work very hard for everything we get.
“There will certainly be no getting carried away here or amongst that group. The benefit I have is they are a very level-headed, down-to-earth group. For those clubs that can spend big money on quality, we are showing plenty of quality within our own work ethic, but if we fall away from that then we have every chance of getting beat.”
Hughton is equally adamant that mindset will not change the nearer the Canaries edge to the accepted wisdom of a 40-point survival mark.
“I’m honestly not thinking anything apart from the next game. I don’t think we can do it in any way different,” he said. “It’s the next game – every game is still such a tough game for us and we have to be on top of our game to win any match. We have to be disciplined in every game to get our points. If we’re able to do that, we have got quality. We know that. But it’s got to be based on a really good team ethic, a good hard-working ethic and a team that has to try to be as disciplined as we can.”
Hoolahan is the added extra at Hughton’s disposal; with the Irishman showcasing every facet of his extensive repertoire – and more besides – on the day when the club officially confirmed the 30-year-old had signed a contract extension to keep him at Carrow Road until at least 2015. “Tackling, headed goals he can do everything,” said Hughton. “He has earned it. And the only way you do that is by performing well enough and Wes has certainly done that. I am probably more pleased for Wes than anyone else. It was not even a question of his future or leaving here. He certainly never showed any desire to leave here. It was all about getting a longer deal for himself and we’re delighted with that.
“He is in very good form at the minute and this is not just for what he has done this season but in the period of time he has been at the football club. I thought he was excellent and to see him get a headed goal was worth the entrance fee alone.”
Hoolahan’s leap should have put Norwich well out of sight on the balance of play, but City were indebted to Sebastien Bassong’s ability to sense danger when he foiled Arouna Kone in stoppage time.
“I was probably more annoyed than anything about that because at 2-1 I felt the game should have been out of sight and they shouldn’t have had that opportunity,” said Hughton. “If they had scored and it ended up 2-2 we would have been kicking ourselves. Seb has been excellent for us from day one, not only on the pitch but around the club and he certainly showed his true quality there.”