Little change as Norwich City boss Chris Hughton returns to where he’s regarded highest
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Last season it felt like the fixture Chris Hughton needed to get out of the way. But this time around, there is far more at stake for the current Norwich City and ex-Newcastle United manager when the former visit the latter Saturday afternoon.
Maybe it was more an external perception, but getting Hughton’s return to St James’ Park done and dusted appeared to help his reign settle down at Carrow Road – even if it was a few results before things did likewise on the pitch.
Earned by his superb, club-saving promotion back to the Premier League and perversely helped by his sacking – widely regarded as harsh – Hughton’s first return to the north east saw him greeted as a hero.
It certainly outshone his Tottenham reception, where Hughton spent almost his entire playing and coaching career; more than two decades of service.
The situation at Newcastle has proven more stable than most expected – yours truly included – at the start of the season.
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From Joe Kinnear’s introduction to Johan Cabaye’s tantrum, United looked prime candidates to fall apart either alongside or quicker than their top-flight rivals down the road.
Instead, the Magpies’ quality on the pitch has seen them – even Cabaye – settle, and having beaten Chelsea at home and pulled off a resolute victory at Spurs last time out, they are suddenly threatening to close in on their excellent efforts of two seasons ago.
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A lot of that masks unrest away from the pitch – fans’ protests and faltering backing of Alan Pardew, local journalists being banned for simply reporting the supporters’ unrest in a way the club didn’t like. It’s still not the happiest ship.
And should that transfer to results on the pitch – Tim Krul won’t make 14 saves every weekend – the fans will be keen to make themselves heard. The indications are fair few people would also be keen to ask for Hughton’s return, should Pardew’s time come to an end.
A lot of ifs, buts and maybes in all that – but then the situation at Newcastle has been fluid and unpredictable for season upon season.
It would be lovely to suggest Norwich City’s own environment is a more settled one.
But the truth is that while victory over West Ham prevented what would have been a tumultuous fortnight, not much has changed.
Hughton is often asked about the pressure he’s under – and his answers rarely alter. In truth, neither does the situation.
Two weeks ago, those three points really did the trick. The mood around everything to do with the club has noticeably lifted.
But the pressure hasn’t. While City’s last two visits to St James’ Park have brought pretty poor 1-0 defeats, it wouldn’t be unfair to suggest the Canaries need to do more than that this time to maintain the fledgling momentum that introduced the international break.