• Misplaced optimism?

    Over the last few years, Albion fans have had cause to enter the New Year in optimistic spirit.

    At the beginning of 2010 we were excited to be getting to know a crazy Uruguayan called Gus. In January 2011 there was both Amex fever as we looked forward to our long-awaited new home and promotion looked a real possibility. At the turn of the year in 2012 we’d learned we could cut it in the Championship and were busy settling into our new home. We went into the new years of both 2013 and 2014 with real belief that this might be the year we reached the PL (the Promised Land).

    This New Year's Day was a bit touch-and-go. If it had arrived 24 hours earlier, we would have seen in the new year with a sense of despondency - worried that the managerial merry-go-round was spinning too fast for us to get on the ride. But as we now know, Tony got his man a day or so before Big Ben struck twelve to herald the arrival of 2015.

    If NSC is an accurate barometer of Albion opinion, over 90 per cent of fans are Happy with Hughton. On the face of it, that looks like overwhelming support. Yet dig into the comments on NSC and the sentiment can perhaps be best described as ‘fully behind the manager if slightly underwhelmed’. Nevertheless, the combination of Hyypia and Burke's departures, that win at Fulham, Nathan’s passion and Hughton’s appointment has led to Brighton fans yet again having the good fortune to start the year with a sense of that ‘O’ word - optimism.

    But I’m not sure I share it. Yes, I’m behind the new manager and I do think he was broadly the bestish of the usual runners and riders. And no, I don’t think we’re going to go down. At the risk of tempting fate, we are too good for that and Hughton’s record suggests he is too good for it too. I think we’ll have a good rest of season, get playing like we can again, probably make a decent signing or two in the transfer window and end up a comfortable 10-15 points clear of the relegation zone.

    So, what’s my problem?

    My problem is that I think we’ll end the season buoyed by staying up, hailing Hughton as the new Messiah and believing that we are Premier League Ready once again. We’ll turn up to the Amex in August expecting that 2015/16 is the season. But my prediction is that a year from now we will go into 2016 in a position of mid-table obsucurity, that the slightly underwhelmed sense of optimism many now feel will prove to be misplaced and we’ll find out next season that we’re some way off being PLR (although whether or not this is a bad thing potentially justifies a separate post).

    Why do I think this? Three reasons.

    Firstly, we have a major team re-building exercise to go through - let’s make no mistake about that. The House That Gus Built no longer exists and that night at home against the Palace in May 2013 looks more and more like a lost opportunity that might not come round again for quite some time. Strong spines of teams are not built overnight.

    Secondly, as a friend who is a Shrewsbury fan put it in an email to me yesterday, Hughton feels like “one of those many managers who will trundle around mid-table in the Championship for years, with the odd play-off push”.

    And thirdly (and perhaps most significantly), there are many unanswered questions as to why Tony and Paul let things get to where they got to with Gus and Oscar. If Hughton is going to succeed, he will at times need to be a difficult employee for the board to handle. I am not convinced whether he is the right person to be that difficult employee and, even if he is, whether the board has the desire to handle awkward customers.

    I realise this all sounds a bit glass half empty. I’m not a doom and gloom merchant. Tony is an amazing chairman and I don’t doubt he wants the club to reach the Promised Land. Paul Barber has done all the things a CEO should do and manages the commercial side of the club very well. Finally Hughton has a reasonably decent track record as a gaffer. Maybe I should feel a bit happier.

    Whilst as Albion fans we’ve got used to feeling optimistic at the turn of the year, and things certainly feel more optimistic in the last week than they have since we got trounced by Derby in the play-offs (as an aside, think back to that absolute trouncing if you find yourself disagreeing violently with my post), this year it’s all relative. Five months of despair may be causing us to give too much weight to events of the past 10 days.

    A resignation, another departure, a win, an excitable Welshman and an underwhelmingly supported new boss don’t make a season. I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong.


    Comments 4 Comments
    1. chaileyjem's Avatar
      chaileyjem -
      Its not so much optimism as relief. Relief that we can actually win another match. Relief that relegation is not necessarily nailed on. Relief that we finally have a manager who, at the very least, is familiar with the Championship , getting teams out of the league and even knows some of the squad and potential new recruits.

      I don't think fans have suddenly switched from famine to feast in the last 10 days Also i'm not sure whether there was optimism and real belief at the club every year up til now.12 months ago and the reaction then to Barnes, Bridcutt's departure and their replacement with the likes of David Rodriguez was some acknowledgement that things were already going awry.

      I think the temperature of NSC and most fans indicates a relief that the last 6 months is over, the players aren't perhaps as bad as we thought and that Hughton is a good prospect. But optimistic that the club is now Premier League Ready, to coin a phrase, is hardly what i'm hearing. I agree the rebuilding in January and Summer is key, not losing any key players as will Hughton's ability to steer us, hopefully, into mid-table with a few good performances to boot. I now believe thats more likely than i would have done as i trudged home on that Friday night after Millwall.

      And we do have a decent spine in there somewhere Stockdale (now at his £1m form), Dunk, Bruno, Greer, Ince, Crofts, Stephens, JFC, March, KLL, Colunga, Baldock even (we've not really seen him) is a decent team/spine to build around.
      Now to test the mettle of Hughton/Bloom's checkbook/and the new recruitment team. Can they turn that relief into fully fledged optimism in the next few weeks?
      Bloom has already created the conditions and stumped up for 2 play off/promotion ready squads with 2 different managers. The jurys out on whether the club can do it for a third time but there's nothing about the appointment of Hughton that indicates that the (sorry) ambition doesn't remain. The incoming/outgoing of players in the next few weeks will show us whether our New Year glasses are really half full.
    1. sdmartin1's Avatar
      sdmartin1 -
      Sorry can't agree, I think the current optimism is relative to the position we were heading with Hyypia at the helm. Of course, some of our wildly optimistic fans may well think we will challenge for the playoffs next season (provided we avoid relegation of course) but I think most of our supporters have realized our squad is quite considerably weaker than in previous seasons. Bloom seems to have acknowledged this also by getting rid of Burke.
    1. chaileyjem's Avatar
      chaileyjem -
      Quote Originally Posted by sdmartin1 View Post
      Sorry can't agree, I think the current optimism is relative to the position we were heading with Hyypia at the helm. Of course, some of our wildly optimistic fans may well think we will challenge for the playoffs next season (provided we avoid relegation of course) but I think most of our supporters have realized our squad is quite considerably weaker than in previous seasons. Bloom seems to have acknowledged this also by getting rid of Burke.
      I think we agree. The squad is weaker. Until we see if January/summer brings in strong additions then promotion confidence is wildly misplaced. That said, the spine of the squad (if injury free) is promising and Hughton can, as perhaps Jones has, get considerably more out of it than SH.
    1. sdmartin1's Avatar
      sdmartin1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by chaileyjem View Post
      I think we agree. The squad is weaker. Until we see if January/summer brings in strong additions then promotion confidence is wildly misplaced. That said, the spine of the squad (if injury free) is promising and Hughton can, as perhaps Jones has, get considerably more out of it than SH.
      Sorry I meant I disagree with the OP. I agree largely with your assessment. We have some good players but it is too early to judge either way how we will fare next season imo before transfers in/out. I'm hoping (even if we make limited signings in the January window) Hughton's experience will guide us to a comfy mid table finish.
  • Advertising