Chris Hughton’s managerial post at Norwich City was well and truly on the line going into their game against Hull. Supporter discontent has been steadily brewing for a while, and after the dreadful display against Fulham in the Cup replay last Tuesday, it threatened to boil over completely.
Chris is a model professional and by all accounts a lovely person. But that doesn’t give him a free pass.
The chief problem is a complete lack of communication between the midfield and strikers, mainly with the lack of service the latter are receiving, forcing them to retreat back into midfield themselves in search of the ball, which totally muddles the game-plan and formation.
Another worry is the complete lack of passion the players have to play under him. For Paul Lambert, the players would run through brick walls for the cause, such was his way with them.
Hughton isn’t one to show much emotion; he sounds the same in every interview, whether we’ve won or been heavily defeated. Because of that, I believe there’s a serious emotional disconnect between the players and the manager and it does concern me.
The above is subjective: what is indisputable is that the results have been lacklustre at best. There’s absolutely no consistency, too many individual mistakes (especially in defence) and not enough improvement considering we’ve had City’s most expensive summer recruiting spree ever, with £13million alone being spent on strikers. Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, the most expensive arrival for £8.5million, has netted just once thus far.
But there’s one quality about Hughton which I can’t help but admire, even if I question how much longer he can sustain it: when his back’s against the wall, his P45 ready to be stamped and Delia’s finger ready to pull the trigger, he always manages to drag out a win.
Like the 1-0 win over Hull, there are two similar instances in which Hughton has saved his own bacon; The 4-0 thrashing of West Brom in the final home game of last season which guaranteed Premier League survival, and the 3-1 victory over West Ham in October -coming a week after the 7-0 humping at Manchester City – in which Norwich were 1-0 down at half-time and the crowd were baying for blood.
Somehow, Hughton has always delivered when its mattered most. And this weekend I’ve been thinking, is that such as bad thing? If you really think about it, how many clubs are crying out for managers with that very same trait?
This weekend’s victory wasn’t the prettiest and we almost paid the price for dreadful finishing. But we won. Problem solved if he can keep pulling out the wins when we need them the most, right?
Time will tell. The key is getting some consistency back. The only thing that can save Hughton’s long-term future now isn’t just the results, but a serious improvement in the style of play, along with the squad cutting out the mistakes and to start playing more to their full potential.
By Nick Sellers – Norwich City fan – @Nick_Sellers