Norwich City boss Chris Hughton is wary of Everton backlash
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David Moyes strikes you as a mean poker player.
The Scot’s public demeanour tends to lurch from taciturn to circumspect on a good day, but one look was all it took for Chris Hughton to know the scale of the task facing Norwich City this afternoon at Goodison Park.
Moyes’ irritation was clearly simmering just below the surface last weekend after Everton become Reading’s first Premier League victims of the season.
Hughton was quick to detect the post-match vibe and the potential repercussions for the Canaries with the Toffees’ chief unlikely to tolerate another off day ahead of his 200th Premier League home match.
“I saw how disappointed he was after the Reading game and the feeling I got was they maybe expected to win that game,” said Hughton. “I don’t think it will have any bearing on our approach to the game. It is up to them to decide how big a loss that is. We saw the Reading game and for a team away from home they had a lot of good forward options.
“They are a strong outfit who work very hard for each other with players capable of creating and scoring. If we take anything away from that game it is the knowledge they are a real good threat going forward.”
Hughton believes Moyes’ achievements produced on relative economies of scale over a decade in the Premier League rank alongside the best of his trophy-winning contemporaries.
“I know David quite well and what he has managed to do at that club is a testament to how good a job he has done,” said the City boss. “We all know that Everton have not had the type of budgets the likes of the two Manchester clubs or Chelsea or Arsenal have had and it makes it even tougher for him.
“To consistently be where they are in the Premier League and to be having as good a season as they are I think speaks volumes for them as a club and David as a manager.
“There is no doubt that in this division the top group of teams have consistently managed to sustain real challenging positions for a number of years. Everton is a club that is run very well, they have a great record of bringing players through, even those from the Championship who have gone on to play international football. They manage to combine a real good ethic allied to very good players.”
Moyes and his staff have also mined some continental gems during his decade on Merseyside. None more so than the towering figure of Maroaune Fellaini, who has struck six goals in 12 appearances for the club this season, but will not get a chance to add to that growing total through suspension this afternoon.
The Belgian has also become a terrace icon since his move from Standard Liege in 2008, but Hughton is too canny to accept the premise Fellaini’s absence could tilt a tight contest in the Canaries’ favour.
“Being a manager or a coach you are always loath to say a particular player who is not playing could be crucial because if he doesn’t, someone else gets a chance and they could have just as big an effect as Fellaini,” he said. “What won’t change is how good a side they are and they are playing with a lot of confidence with threats from lads like (Leighton) Baines and (Steven) Pienaar. I am more concerned by the fact they are a good team rather than good individuals.
“The record shows that this season. That is the threat, backed by a passionate crowd and we will have to be very resilient to get anything from the game.
“It is always very difficult at Goodison because they are a side who can generate a great feeling at home and it is a wonderful stadium to play in. They have started the season very well and apart from the fact they look like winning football matches they are playing a very good style of football with influential players.”
John Ruddy fits that category for the Canaries at present, with the England keeper defiant again to help keep Manchester United at bay last weekend. Ruddy is expected to win his fitness battle after suffering a knee injury in the closing stages - aided by the extra incentive perhaps of facing his former allies.
“I don’t think it will inspire him (going back) any more than how he has already been performing,” said Hughton. “Keepers, especially, do not know what type of game might be put in front of you; it can be one where he has to make vital saves or a real concentration type game.
“I think he will enjoy going back because that of course is a place he has a connection with and he will look to catch up with old friends, but generally it is only a good day if you get something from it.”
Ruddy has enjoyed plenty of those in recent weeks behind an unchanged backline which has done much to exorcise any early season demons.
“It is always pleasing for a goalkeeper and a back four but you can’t do what we have done of late without it being a real team effort,” said Hughton.
“The back four will be grateful for a group of players in front of them working ever so hard.
“We have probably had three bad days in the season so far. Apart from that I have been very, very happy with what the players have given us, the endeavour and the work-rate they have been prepared to put in.
“We are fortunate right at this moment that we have been able to pick up points and we just have to try and attain the standards we have managed in the recent games.
“We are also buoyed by the fact we have had other good spells during the season so we know we are capable of that. We are a team that has to play at that level to get results. We have certainly been more solid and we have had some big games to do that in. We mustn’t certainly underestimate what the lads have put in to get these results, because that is the level we have to work at.”