Brighton & Hove Albion have defied the odds in their debut season in the Premier League to climb into the top half of the table. Chris Hughton has masterminded their rise and is finally proving his qualities in the top flight of English football.
Chris Hughton has been undermined during the entirety of his managerial career, but he’s settled comfortably at The Amex and is finally demonstrating his knowledge and brilliance in the Premier League.
The 59-year-old plied his trade acting as caretaker manager and assistant manager at Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs had ten different managers during his spell at White Hart Lane, but Hughton was eventually dismissed at the end of Jol’s reign in 2007.
Hughton moved onto Premier League rivals Newcastle United in 2008, and joined the coaching staff under Kevin Keagan. He was appointed caretaker manager following the departure of Keagan in September 2008, but opted to revert to the role of assistant manager, due to a series of poor results.
Newcastle United were subsequently relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season, with club legend Alan Shearer failing to provoke a reaction after being appointed as interim manager in the dying embers of the season.
Mike Ashley called upon Hughton once again to act as caretaker manager in the early stages of the 2009/10 season. He was second-choice, as Newcastle were unable to secure the services of Alan Shearer, but he made an instantaneous impact in the dugout.
The Magpies comfortably secured promotion and the Football League Championship in 2010. Hughton was voted LMA Manager of the Season and guided Newcastle to promotion without a single home defeat in both league and cup competitions.
It was a fantastic achievement, but his dream start was set to come crashing down on Newcastle’s return to the Premier League. Mike Ashley, who has spent his tenure at Newcastle showing a total lack of respect to the club’s managers, harshly dismissed Hughton in December 2010.
His sacking was met with widespread condemnation amongst pundits, players and supporters. Hughton was unable to prove himself in the top flight, before he’d even really had the chance to make an impact, but he remained resilient and bounced back by moving to Birmingham City at the beginning of the 2011/12 season.
Birmingham City achieved a fourth-place finish in the Championship and also reached the group stages of the UEFA Europa League and FA Cup 5th Round. Norwich City announced their interest in Hughton, and offered him a route back into the Premier League, which he duly accepted.
The Canaries spent the majority of the 2011/12 campaign fighting relegation, but subsequently finished in a respectable 12th place. He was unable to retain his job during his second season, as relegation was on the cards once again. Norwich sacked him with just one month of the season remaining and the club placed in a precarious position in 17th place.
Most managers would fall into a state of decline after failing at the highest level, as we’ve previously seen with Tim Sherwood, Alex McLeish and Owen Coyle, but Chris Hughton is made of different material.
Hughton took on arguably the toughest job in his managerial career when he arrived at Brighton & Hove Albion in December 2014. The team had languished towards the bottom of the table during the first half of the campaign under Sami Hyppia, but Hughton steadied the ship and provide continuity, spirit and consistency to a deflated squad.
The Seagulls survived relegation to preserve their Championship status and Hughton began to assemble an extremely strong squad. The 2015 Summer Transfer Window saw the arrivals of Anthony Knockaert from Leicester City, Tomer Hemed from Almeria and Gaetan Bong from Wigan Athletic.
Unfortunately, Brighton were unable to secure automatic promotion, after missing out to Middlesbrough on goal difference. They went onto lose the Championship Play-Offs semi-final to Sheffield Wednesday, but they were edging closer to the dream of playing in the Premier League.
Hughton added further firepower to the pack at the beginning of the 2016/17 season, especially with the signings of Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy. The pair would play pivotal roles in their successful pursuit for promotion, and confirm Hughton’s long-awaited return to the Premier League.
Brighton have brought in 18 players on permanent and loan deals since the beginning of the season. They suffered spells of inconsistency during the first half of the season, but the project is coming to life as the season reaches its climax.
The Seagulls are unbeaten in their previous five games, with three wins against West Ham United, Swansea City and Arsenal respectively. Hughton’s work has been acknowledged by his peers, after being voted Premier League Manager of the Month for the first time in his career. It’s taken nine years since he first broke into the world of management, but he’s finally receiving the credit that he truly deserves.