Opinion: A nice guy to the end...but Chris Hughton had to go
13:22 09 April 2014
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As expected, Chris Hughton was a gentleman to the very end.
In his statement, issued through the League Managers’ Association, the 55-year-old explained his sense of disappointment in the same way fans and the media have come to expect in his 22 months in charge at Carrow Road.
There was no sense of the bitterness he must be feeling - just a confidence that he would have seen the job of preserving the club’s Premier League status through.
Unfortunately for Hughton the club’s fans and its board did not feel the same way. Previously, Carrow Road had been Hughton’s sanctuary – his armour in deflecting away all the criticism from some appalling performances away from home this season.
But on Saturday that defence also lay in tatters and the board had to act to give the club the best chance of avoiding what chief executive David McNally has stated in the past as “a fate worse than death” – relegation.
Putting the youth team coach in charge of a Premier League outfit is a surprise move – but morale had got so low that Norwich have a better chance of getting a result at Fulham under Neil Adams than they did under Hughton.
The players may say otherwise but, while they maintained a respect for the man himself, they had lost confidence in the former Birmingham boss’ defensive methods.
It was clear from day one that Hughton would stabilise rather than evolve the attacking fabric of City’s squad that had been cultivated by his predecessor, Paul Lambert.
An 11th-placed finish papered over some rather large cracks in Hughton’s first season in charge and, despite an outlay of around £26m in the summer, it is difficult to argue against the notion Hughton has taken the club backwards this season.
With the unprecedented amount of money invested in the squad fans expected better than another relegation battle. National pundits may say Norwich are still a safe distance, points-wise at least, from the bottom three but those within Norfolk’s borders know defeat at Craven Cottage would almost seal the club’s fate.
The desperate, but decisive, call to sack Hughton had to be made – his legacy likely to be decided over the next five games in his absence.
According to his statement, Hughton is now preparing for “his next challenge” and when the bad feeling around some of his questionable tactical calls has subsided, Norwich fans will wish him all the best in that pursuit.
Hughton will get a Championship gig in the summer – I’ve no doubt about that. He has shown he knows how to tackle English football’s second tier during his time at Newcastle and Birmingham.
Ultimately, the challenge of evolving Norwich into an established Premier League club was beyond him.
But you do hope there is still a place in football, somewhere, for one of its nice guys.