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Clapping not clap banners should mark Chris Hughton’s Carrow Road return to Norwich City

PUBLISHED: 20:30 18 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:59 19 April 2017

Chris Hughton makes his competitve return to Norwich City with newly-promoted Brighton. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Chris Hughton makes his competitve return to Norwich City with newly-promoted Brighton. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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Chris Hughton left Carrow Road in a hail of clap banners. He returns as a Premier League manager.

Chris Hughton's final Norwich City game ended in a 1-0 Premier League defeat to West Brom in 2014. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdChris Hughton's final Norwich City game ended in a 1-0 Premier League defeat to West Brom in 2014. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

If anything perfectly illustrates the madness of English football it is Hughton’s revival on the south-coast at Brighton.

The hugely likeable yet defensively cautious manager of Norwich, circa 2012 to 2014, has guided the Seagulls to the brink of the Championship title on a torrent of attacking intent.

Anthony Knockaert has been the stand out performer in the second tier this campaign; a whirling dervish of a wide player with the technique and potency to punish Football League rivals. Hughton recruited the 25-year-old wide player from Standard Liege in January 2016. He has been rewarded this campaign with 15 goals and numerous assists.

City felt the full force on the south-coast in October. That 5-0 pummelling unleashed waves of negativity around Norwich’s receding promotion hopes, fanned by Brighton boy Russell Martin’s brutally honest post-match verdict.

Anthony Knockaert scored in Brighton's 5-0 Championship win over Norwich City. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdAnthony Knockaert scored in Brighton's 5-0 Championship win over Norwich City. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Subsequent events demonstrated it was not a one-off. Brighton had the template to emerge through a Championship minefield. Norwich simply had too many deficiencies to maintain early season progress.

Whether Knockaert, Glenn Murray and Steve Sidwell will be good enough in the top flight is a debate for another week. Right now they deserve every plaudit going for recovering from the brutality of missing out on automatic promotion on the final day of last season and then slipping up in the play-offs.

Hughton has restored his managerial reputation after struggling to build on a mid-table Premier League finish at Norwich, having initially accepted a tough gig to follow Paul Lambert at Carrow Road. Hughton’s task in these parts was to broker a degree of re-invention, add a dash or three of rejuvenation to a playing squad which had punched well above their collective weight. A heightened sense of expectation, fuelled in part by lavish transfer outlays on internationals like Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Leroy Fer, placed extra stress on Hughton. The vastly-experienced coach erred too often on the side of caution, was too willing to praise the respective strengths of Premier League opponents, and too quick to underline City’s modest place in the football pecking order.

That is what inexorably led to a bitter April afternoon in 2014, when West Brom prevailed at Carrow Road to shunt Hughton’s squad ever closer to the Football League. The bemused look on Pepe Mel’s face at the final whistle as those clap banners rained down in pure frustration around the technical area was one of the abiding images of a sad exit for an honourable man.

Chris Hughton has taken Brighton into the Premier League. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdChris Hughton has taken Brighton into the Premier League. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Hughton took his medicine and bided his time. Norwich returned to the big league quicker than their former manager but, again, were unable to sustain the meteoric progress of Alex Neil’s early months. To slip back once more last season perhaps illustrates how tough a managerial job it will always be to attain sustainability for City’s co-operative financial model.

Hughton’s latest feat proves he is an astute operator in the Football League, after matching his previous achievements at Newcastle United.

To add the title with a win at Carrow Road on Friday, and deny the big-spending Magpies top spot in the process, would be another delicious irony. Hughton’s stock is on the rise again, his methods and his man-management feted. There is talk of affording him the freedom of the city of Brighton. That sour ending to his time with the Canaries has receded for the majority of those beyond the borders of Norfolk.

Hughton deserves to be praised not vilified on his first competitive return to Carrow Road. You would expect nothing less from a fan base who would wish no ill will towards a man who commands huge respect within the game. The rise and fall of Neil underlines there is a shelf life to working in the most precarious parts of the football industry. Hughton and Norwich was a marriage that should have been dissolved much quicker. But that is the past.

Those now in control of Norwich’s destiny would do well to study the Seagulls’ model; a magnificent stadium and world class training complex are a testament to the huge investment of owner Tony Bloom but also Hughton’s measured, incremental approach to building a football club. City may not have access to similar revenue streams - irrespective of one more injection of parachute money to come - but the strategic planning and the attention to detail are within the remit of Stuart Webber and the club’s board.

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9 comments

  • He was dreadful here. Plan A was to not concede. Plan B was for Snodgrass to fall dramatically somewhere near the penalty area and try to score from the free kick. It was turgid stuff. If we wanted to watch that every week we would be at Portman Rd. I wish Brighton well after Friday but realistically they will not have enough to stay up and will soon be found out. They deserve their chance as they have been close in the past but I could do without the snidey comments about Pritchard from their supporters. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

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    suffolkcanary

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  • Gra, that's your third name this morning tommy. What's up, is Archie on your case again?

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    cutty

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  • Clapping Brighton versus clapped out Norwich? The deadwood stage will soon be here! 'Ray!

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    alec

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  • Are you a newbie, Bowers57? Welcome aboard, chum. ;-)

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  • Hear! Hear! @Dubai Canary. I thought, at first, he was the perfect fit for us when he joined after extracting good performances from a makeshift squad in a struggling club (Birmingham). He'd done quite well at Newcastle too, then got sacked for his trouble. At Norwich, his first season was saved by a club-record (?) 10 match unbeaten run, yielding 22 points. And by Grant Holt. Holt was then "let go". It all went belly up. I was very critical of Hughton and I've eaten numble pies galore ever since (they're offal, btw). It is clear now that the malaise is more deeply embedded. Graveyard Carra is the creation of The Dark Queen of Little London. A Dysentery destined to dominate for at least one more degeneration. Good luck to you, Chrissie, and sincere apologies. I hope you do double irony by stealing the title from Newcastle whilst giving Dee-Dee a kick up the farce (in a culinary context)...

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    Mad Brewer

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  • It's a pity that it did not work out for Chris Hughton at NCFC, as clearly he has shown what he can do at other clubs. I am not sure that it was all his fault either - one has to question what might be wrong with NCFC too ? We have seen various influential people come and go since then..... Adams, Bowkett, McNally, Moxey, Neil all come to mind. In most cases we don't know why things went wrong, or, at what level, but it makes you think that all is not well somewhere. Anyway, well done to Chris Hughton for getting promoted with Brighton - I hope they will up as Champions - and that he gets a warm and respectful reception at Carrow Road ! It is only right that he does.

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    Dubai Canary

    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

  • 'Wait to see how Brighton fans feel about him in 12 months.' As a Brighton fan walking back from a disappointing loss against the Canaries in your promotion season a couple of years ago, funnily enough, that is what I was told several times by Norwich supporters on the way back to the car park. We were struggling at the foot of the league and the perceived wisdom was that Hughton would stabilise us but bring nothing more attractive to the club. Well it appears that this wisdom was flawed, it seems Hughton has learned from past mistakes and he has gone on to construct a side which has thrilled the Amex for the past two seasons, strong in defence but swift and devastating in attack. As an aside, I hope Norwich find your way back soon to the premier league, East Anglia is a wonderful place and deserves a top team and Norwich is a great football club.

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    Jonathan Poston

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

  • It did not work for him at Norwich but like him or loathe him, CH has proved in his managerial career that he does have ability. A likeable and very gentlemanly person he certainly did not deserve the abuse [much of which was racial} that he received from a number of City fans prior to his departure. In his position on Friday I would feel that I had got the last laugh over those particular City fans who were so disgusting but being the man he is, I doubt that will ever enter his mind.

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    Bhutan7

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

  • God, that man was awful. I couldn't care less about Hughton and certainly won't be clapping or booing him. He deserves nothing from us Paddy and was absolutely dreadful after spending a toilet load of money for nodge. Wait to see how Brighton fans feel about him in 12 months.

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    JimBob

    Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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