De­cent sort of guy with some de­cent re­sults

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

WHEN Chris Hughton was shab­bily shown the door by Mike Ash­ley in 2010, for­mer Toon chair­man Fred­die Shep­herd piped up to de­fend his suc­ces­sor.

“I like Chris Hughton, he’s a great guy. In fact I’ve not met any­one as de­cent as him,” said the man who sacked Bobby Rob­son. “Maybe he’s too de­cent. He’s too nice a guy and that was his down­fall.” A prop­erty ty­coon who scrapped his way to the top, Shep­herd’s views on suc­cess are un­der­stand­able. In his line, nice guys usu­ally do fin­ish last.

It’s tempt­ing, too, to as­sess the achieve­ments of Brian Clough, Alex Fer­gu­son or Jose Mour­inho and de­duce that bul­ly­ing, hec­tor­ing, petu­lance and tyranny form the bedrock of a suc­cess­ful man­age­rial ca­reer.

Yet the idea that Hughton is some­how un­der­mined by de­cency is non­sense. In fact, it is the source of his strength.

Hughton is an adept tac­ti­cian. His sides, though rarely ex­pan­sive, are in­vari­ably well-drilled and dif­fi­cult to beat. Ar­riv­ing at Brighton last win­ter, he in­stantly re­alised the con­ti­nen­tal pass­ing game in­stilled by Gus Poyet had been wrecked by poor re­cruit­ment. Rip­ping it up and go­ing back to ba­sics was a mas­ter­stroke, yet Brighton’s rise to sec­ond in the Cham­pi­onship is also a di­rect re­sult of the char­ac­ter­is­tics so dis­par­aged by Shep­herd.

Hughton’s in­her­ent de­cency and re­spect for those he works with brings ev­ery­one – staff, play­ers, fans – to­gether.

At New­cas­tle, he took charge of a bloated laugh­ing stock with a re­viled owner and muti­nous fans. He ditched the mer­ce­nar­ies, won pro­mo­tion and left them in tenth spot.

May­hem

At Birm­ing­ham, things were even worse. A chair­man in jail on the other side of the world, cash dis­ap­pear­ing into a black hole and no scope for trans­fers. He still reached the play-offs.

Hughton gives fans dig­nity and self-re­spect. He gives them some­thing to be proud of, ir­re­spec­tive of the may­hem.

He gives play­ers re­spon­si­bil­ity and im­pe­tus. Play­ers aren’t scared of him. They want to suc­ceed for him. Letting the 57-year-old down would be like telling your kindly grand­fa­ther you’d been ar­rested for steal­ing hub­caps.When did you last hear of un­rest in a Hughton dress­ing room? “Ev­ery­body liked Chris,” said Toon skip­per Kevin Nolan.“He was very pop­u­lar, not just with the play­ers but ev­ery­one who worked for the club. Ev­ery­body went the ex­tra mile for him with­out even re­al­is­ing they were do­ing it.”

Poet Maya An­gelou once said that peo­ple “Will for­get what you said, they will even for­get what you did, but they will never for­get what you made them feel”.

As Brighton gear up to pass New­cas­tle, per­haps Shep­herd will re­flect that the Toon lost a lot more than a good coach all those years ago.

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