Norwich City boss Chris Hughton issues Premier League reality check
©Focus Images Limited www.focus-images.co.uk +447814 482222
Chris Hughton has been in the professional game too long to get carried away with Norwich’s upwardly mobile trajectory.
City’s latest stirring 4-3 Premier League win at Swansea earned Hughton the distinction of presiding over the club’s best unbeaten top flight run in the modern era. Norwich’s ninth consecutive league match without defeat also moved them nine points clear of the current bottom three – and that is the only statistic driving Hughton on to try and scale even greater heights.
“We certainly won’t lose sight of what the realities are,” he said. “We assess every game and that is the only way to do it. We are still in a group of teams where it is still all about staying in this division. We are not about setting targets, we just want to try and be the best we can and try to improve game after game. We are still very new in this division. We had a wonderful season back up for the first time last season, but it always changes because it is a massive test for us. “I’m proud of the players, irrespective of any run we are on, because they put in a tough shift every game. Fortunately for us we showed enough resilience to see it through again and they deserve every credit going. They knew the points hadn’t come for us earlier in the season but it was about creating something within the group to get us on a run.”
Hughton hailed Norwich’s first half masterclass as the best yet under his command and the Canaries could have been out of sight before Swansea’s high-octane response straight after the interval.
“That first half could not have gone any better for us,” he said. “We didn’t make things easy for ourselves, albeit we could have been 4-0 up when Bradley (Johnson) hits the bar. We conceded too early and that was always going to give them a lift.
“Probably the thing that I was delighted about the most was when it went to 3-2 the majority of those here will have expected it to go 3-3 and perhaps Swansea to get a winner. I think we had a period where we had to really dig deep and the fourth goal was pivotal for us.
“It is a wonderful marker for the players. We continually say every game is a tough one for us, but that first half was really excellent. It doesn’t get any better, but that is tough to sustain for 90 minutes. The character we showed with 30 minutes to go – it was 31 minutes to go actually – even though it seemed like longer was tremendous.”
Hughton had to deliver one of his more testing half-time team talks despite the Canaries being three goals to the good at the break.
“It’s an easy one to speak about, but a difficult one for the players to put into practice,” he said. “It is quite hard to tell them to do the same things, to show the same work ethic, not to take any chances, to put pressure on them and break when you have the opportunity to do so, but the goals change things. Possibly that is the way the rhythm of the game goes. You can look at a couple of their goals and in the first half they were going the other side of the post or Bunny (Mark Bunn) saves. It was tough, we had to weather it a little bit but we showed real quality and four different goalscorers as well.”
Hughton will now switch his focus to a Capital One Cup quater-final tie against Aston Villa tomorrow and a roll call of his troops with Steven Whittaker a late withdrawal at the Liberty Stadium after the Scot had opened the scoring.
“Yes he did (go off with a niggle), he just felt something. I think he is okay,” said Hughton, speaking immediately after the game. “I obviously have a lot of decisions to make regarding Tuesday.”