• Football Changed and Chris Hughton Didnít Keep Up

    Saturday 13th April. Brighton are at home to Bournemouth. I am in town and there are no issues that would realistically stop me getting to the Amex and yet I have decided not to go. Partly this is because I am running the Brighton Marathon the next day, and partly this is because a glance at BTTS and win tips on offer weren't at all encouraging. I have friends from out of town coming down to stay and run in it too and I have a straight forward choice between meeting them for a late lunch in town or going to the game. Nine times out of ten I would pick the game. Sorry friends, see you tomorrow. But not this time. We have been so abject of late that Iím glad to have an excuse not to go. I pack my son off with my friend Steve to go to the game and I go in to town for a late lunch and a lime and soda.

    By five thirty Steve is back with my son and I am staring blankly at a phone that tells me weíve lost 5-0 at home and had a straight red. There has been mutiny in the camp. My son is nearly frozen but didnít want to leave early, but EVERYONE was leaving early. Everyone. My fragile pre-marathon state cannot cope with it. I wait for the inevitable NSC poll and vote Hughton out. My son, previously as staunchly pre-CH as me is nearly in tears. ďHe has to go dadĒ. With the benefit of hindsight youíd think any other chairman would pull the trigger at this point. Bloom keeps his powder dry.

    Perhaps this is because we have another huge game on Tuesday, a chance to pull clear of Cardiff, to effectively send them down. Even a draw puts us in the driving seat. Just donít lose. And yet confidence is at its lowest ebb of the season and, having missed a straight forward chance, we immediately go behind to a worldy, and, again, that might as well be it. We could still have been running around on Wednesday and not scored.

    Saturday 27th April. Home to Newcastle. But first, Cardiff have to go to Fulham in a 3pm kick off, and miraculously they have been falling behind us since winning at the Amex. There is a huge crowd in the concourses fixed on the telly and when news come through that Fulham have taken a 1-0 lead the roof nearly comes off. The atmosphere is electric. If anything should inspire our team to the result we need, itís this.

    Down below us in the dressing room Hughton is putting the finishing touches to a 4-4-2 formation. A what now? A great article from The Tactician has highlighted the folly of this far better than I can but itís certainly odd. Gross on the right wing. Pascal Gross with that lack of pace of his. Andone and Murray together. All season these two have been more like opponents than team mates. I canít be bothered to check out the exact stats but I would be amazed if theyíd played more than a few minutes together. Itís one or the other. Now itís both.

    The Albion come out and force a free kick close to the Newcastle area. Itís hands down the worst free kick weíve ever taken. Newcastle push up from the back, Murray neglects his duties and the rest of the spine are in no-manís land. They go one up and the goal is a football crime. We are AWFUL. A better side would score another five. Luckily Newcastle donít, Hughton changes it up, the players respond, Gross, moved in and up, scores the Amex goal weíve all been waiting for and we draw. Palace do the rest the following week and weíre safe. Hughton has survived. Right? Wrong.

    Because, with the benefit of hindsight, it wasnít just that. I didnít go to the Bournemouth game using the marathon as an excuse but, really, it was the pathetic capitulation at home to Southampton, drawing away to a Millwall team more suited to League One than the Premier League, a rolling over at Chelsea (whoíd just struggled at Cardiff), losing two goal leads at West Ham and Fulham, getting stuffed at home by effing Burnley. I was a Hughton fan, Iíd defended him to the hilt, cheered him from the rafters and now, even I realised his time was up. Why? Because in the five short years heíd been our manager football had moved on massively. Hughton hadnít.

    Chris arrived to save the Albion from Hyypia on New Yearís Eve 2014. That season Chelsea won the Premier League with ten fewer points than second place Liverpool achieved this season. The Champions League final was played between Juventus and Barcelona. The following season Leicester City won it with 81 points and Liverpool were not even in the top five. England, meanwhile, crashed out of the group stage of the 2014 World Cup at the bottom of a group that was won by Costa Rica and no one was really sure why new manager Gareth Southgate had been appointed. And Ostersund? A team weíd never heard of, managed by an Englishman weíd never heard of, were promoted to Swedenís top division in October of 2015. They finished eighth in their first season in the top league, winning Potter plaudits for playing attractive football on a shoestring budget.

    Of course, today we have all four European club finalists. We have not one but two teams scoring over 97 points in the Premier League. England have been to a World Cup semi-final and have won World Cups at Under 17 and Under 20 level. Ostersund have beaten Arsenal at the Emirates, having finished level with Atletic Bilboa in the Europa League group stages. And Chris? Having left Norwich just above the Premier League safety zone with fan complaints of dull, safety first football he has now left Brighton just above the Premier League safety zone with fan complaints of dull, safety first football.

    That over simplifies things and does a great disservice to all the excellent achievements of Albionís erstwhile boss, a distinguished and honourable man and genuine hero of Sussex. But itís there to underline that there is a moving world and a world where things stand still. There is a whole other debate about what caused this. Could he have changed?

    Did he want to change? Only Chris will know, and heís not telling. However, by the end we became incredibly predictable. At home? Press us. We had neither the pace nor the calmness on the ball to pass and break through it and would soon revert to long, risky diagonal balls. Away? Wait for someone to pop the tyres on that bus parked in our half. A goal, a flashpoint, a bit of luck would normally do it. Thank goodness it didnít at Wolves.

    What also stayed the same was how much respect Hughton earned and deserved. I feel hugely rotten writing this. And with his pragmatic approach, with his calm refusal to get too upset or too excited, Chris has endeared himself to just about everyone, and failed to keep up with the changing world of British football. That world is currently Southgateís and Kloppís and Pepís. Is it currently Ashworth and Potterís? More importantly, with a four year deal, can Potter move with the times himself? Only time will tell.


    RELATED READS:

    The Graham Potter thread
    Daniel James to join Albion?
    Your gut feeling for Albion under Graham Potter?
    Chris Hughton leaves Albion with immediate effect

    Comments 8 Comments
    1. AlastairWatts's Avatar
      AlastairWatts -
      Dunno why you feel rotten. It's not as if we weren't warned, by those Norwich fans who cam on here when C H got the job. He did exactly the same for Albion as he did at Norwich, with the same result for him and luckily just avoiding relegation for us. I never thought that he had a plan 'B' and regrettably I was proved right.

      But what a smashing article. I don't think anyone has put it better.
    1. Eddie On the Wing's Avatar
      Eddie On the Wing -
      Quote Originally Posted by AlastairWatts View Post
      Dunno why you feel rotten. It's not as if we weren't warned, by those Norwich fans who cam on here when C H got the job. He did exactly the same for Albion as he did at Norwich, with the same result for him and luckily just avoiding relegation for us. I never thought that he had a plan 'B' and regrettably I was proved right.

      But what a smashing article. I don't think anyone has put it better.
      Yes, but in order to leave us in the same position he left Norwich, he had to get us into that position first. For the first Premier League season, safety first was fine, but having just survived with it last year, this year should have moved on, but he didn't and it was time to change - to survive now, you have to try to do more than just survive. the article is spot on about that. But after four and a half years, promotion and Premier League football, you can't do the "I always said...and I've been proved right" routine, because you haven't been.
    1. cosmic cowboy's Avatar
      cosmic cowboy -
      I agree with all of this, from 3000 miles away in Brooklyn NY. I watched every game last season, FA Cups too, not the League Cup but I got a very good idea of the formation and each individual player, the strengths and weaknesses. Up to Christmas things were fine, but something went badly wrong when we went away to Fulham and inexplicably Matt was re-installed between the posts on a wet Tuesday evening by the river. We collapsed in the 2nd half and never recovered. The confidence was alarming to watch as it drained steadily away match by match. I'd started counting the points weeks ago when it became clear that we were not going to score another goal. As it happens we did score v Newcastle AND City but we all know that we deserved to go down but by the skin of our teeth and old Croydon mates survived to fight another season in the English elite. Was Dan Ashworth responsible for the Southgate appointment ? I was in Moscow last summer and the change of atmosphere around England is palpable. I think Tony B has been very bold and gambled on the future. What a relief. I agree with every word of this article, and like you I have tremendous respect for Chris Hughton. But he failed to motivate the players after that Bournemouth debacle and for that particular result v Cardiff, he had to go.
    1. Bevendean Hillbilly's Avatar
      Bevendean Hillbilly -
      Absolutely head, nail on. An excellent article.
    1. papajaff's Avatar
      papajaff -
      That sums things up very well, an excellent piece very well written.
    1. Bold Seagull's Avatar
      Bold Seagull -
      “Am I watching Brighton or Barcelona?”

      When CH had the players in form, we could play. Sadly this season it’s not just Hughton, we didn’t have anyone sparkle like Izquierdo last year, or magic goals and chances like Gross consistently did.

      Ultimately Hughton goes because he couldn’t turn it around, we’ll never know if he could have.
    1. Tim Over Whelmed's Avatar
      Tim Over Whelmed -
      Great article
    1. ferring seagull's Avatar
      ferring seagull -
      Quote Originally Posted by cosmic cowboy View Post
      I agree with all of this, from 3000 miles away in Brooklyn NY. I watched every game last season, FA Cups too, not the League Cup but I got a very good idea of the formation and each individual player, the strengths and weaknesses. Up to Christmas things were fine, but something went badly wrong when we went away to Fulham and inexplicably Matt was re-installed between the posts on a wet Tuesday evening by the river. We collapsed in the 2nd half and never recovered. The confidence was alarming to watch as it drained steadily away match by match. I'd started counting the points weeks ago when it became clear that we were not going to score another goal. As it happens we did score v Newcastle AND City but we all know that we deserved to go down but by the skin of our teeth and old Croydon mates survived to fight another season in the English elite. Was Dan Ashworth responsible for the Southgate appointment ? I was in Moscow last summer and the change of atmosphere around England is palpable. I think Tony B has been very bold and gambled on the future. What a relief. I agree with every word of this article, and like you I have tremendous respect for Chris Hughton. But he failed to motivate the players after that Bournemouth debacle and for that particular result v Cardiff, he had to go.
      and following his SO recent return from international duty - He should never have been started that day.

      I agree with your post and 'entirely' with your final sentence !
  • Advertising