Hunter: I'm here to stay
DAVID CUFFLEY Martin Hunter marked his first anniversary as Norwich City first team coach with the message: “I can't wait to get down to work again.”
Martin Hunter marked his first anniversary as Norwich City first team coach with the message: “I can't wait to get down to work again.”
Hunter, who arrived at Colney exactly one year ago today after stepping down from his post as England Under-19 boss to return to club football, said he was relishing the prospect of his second season with the Canaries.
And, flatly rejecting reports last week linking him with a move to a Premiership club, the 52-year-old coach sounded a confident message about City's chances of challenging at the business end of the Coca-Cola Championship in 2007-08.
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Hunter, who has spent part of his summer break giving young Premiership bosses Roy Keane and Gareth Southgate the benefit of his coaching knowledge on the UEFA A Licence course, will be back to the regular job when City players report for fitness tests and the start of pre-season training next week.
Hunter was reported to be a target for top-flight Wigan Athletic, where his former Bradford City managerial ally Chris Hutchings has succeeded Paul Jewell as boss, but he said there was no substance to that story.
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He said: “My son showed me the reports and that's as much as I know. That's as far as it goes. Without any doubt I will be back at Norwich City to start work next week and I'm very much looking forward to it.
“The year has gone very quickly. Once you start pre-season training, it always seems to go quickly into the match schedule.
“It's been a very eventful year because of certain circumstances but I have no regrets whatever.”
Hunter arrived as Steve Foley's replacement in the Nigel Worthington-Doug Livermore management team. After Worthington's exit and one match as caretaker-boss, he retained his key post when new manager Peter Grant and, later, Jim Duffy arrived. He said the change at the top had not made a huge difference to his role.
He said: “I'm still first team coach. I have a say in the day-to-day training, but of course Peter will make the final decisions and it's good working for him.
“Being in club football is excellent. You can't beat the day-to-day involvement working with very good players at one of the highest levels of the game.”
City cannot afford another season like the last one, when they finished 16th in the Championship, and the division is unlikely to be any easier, but Hunter remains upbeat about their chances of challenging for promotion.
He said: “The Championship will be a test this year, next year, it's always a tough division. Three teams have come down with a chance of getting back up again. Other clubs have had different consortiums come in and had certain restraints taken off them.
“But hopefully the signings we make and the work we do in pre-season training will enable us to be up there.
“I can't see a problem. We have very good players at the club. We will try to improve on that squad during the close season and during the season we will be working extremely hard and we will plan everything down to the last meticulous detail.”
That kind of thorough approach paid dividends for one of Hunter's summer “students” in Sunderland boss Keane.
Hunter holds the highest coaching qualification in the country - the UEFA Pro Licence - and has been passing on his expertise to some big names who are taking their UEFA A Licence. He will take a Pro Licence day session at Warwick University tomorrow.
He said: “I have been at Lilleshall with such people as Roy Keane, Colin Cooper and Gareth Southgate from Middlesbrough, Steve Staunton and Steve Claridge.
“Roy Keane is a student of the game. That's why he's been successful. He doesn't leave any stone unturned. He has a good team and a good work ethic. It's not rocket science. It requires a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck with things like injuries. Irrespective of whether you spend a lot of money, organisation is very, very important. You can't just buy 11 individuals and throw them together.”