I remember the name Brighton & Hove Albion principally from the final score announcements on a late Saturday afternoon after helping my dad with the garden when I was a boy. It’s one of those older style names that scarcely seem like they belong on a list of teams in the most successful football division in the game. But next season, for the first time since 1983, they’ll be back in the top league. And they’ve got an Irishman to thank. Chris Hughton.
Chris Hughton at Brighton & Hove Albion.
Hughton took over as manager of Brighton & Hove Albion midway through the 2014-2015 season. Things looked pretty grim. His hard work and technical nous turned things around for the seagulls. Hughton secured safety for the side in his first season. In his second, he brought them up as far as third place in the league. They only missed out on promotion through inferior goal difference of 2 goals. In his third season, last season, the club finished second, behind Newcastle United, and gained automatic promotion to the Premier League. At one stage they went on an unbeaten run of 18 games and were top for most of December and January last.
Chris Hughton at Newcastle United.
It’s not the first time Chris Hughton has gained promotion to the Premier League either. Last time it was with Newcastle United. He broke records, there, secured the clubs best ever start to a football season and won back to back manager of the month awards. The year after Newcastle were promoted, Hughton signed Sol Campbell and Hatem Ben Arfa among others, secured the club’s first victory against Arsenal in 5 years, thrashed Villa 6-0, and beat Sunderland 5-1. They were sitting a pretty creditable 9th in the table. Then Hughton was sacked. It was a decision met with bafflement and anger. Sol Campbell, Alan Shearer and even Alan Sugar spoke out publicly in support of the manager.
Chris Hughton for Ireland.
Chris was born in a part of Essex that’s now considered London. He’s the son of a Ghanaian postman, Willie Hughton, and his Irish wife, Christine. It was thanks to Christine that Chris qualified to play for Ireland, earning 53 caps and scoring once. He was the first mixed-race player to represent Ireland and turned out for the country for all three matches in Euro ’88. He was called up to the squad for Italia ’90 but in the end Steven Staunton took his place on the pitch.
You can’t overlook his managerial success since. Nor can the Irish connection. Currently, At Brighton & Hove Albion, 2 Irish players are part of the first team, Richie Towell and Shane Duffy, and 5 more are part of the youth set-up; Jayson Molumby, Dessie Hutchinson, Daniel Mandroiu, Thomas Byrne and Aaron Connolly. So Hughton is still very much in touch with Irish players of the present and the future.
After his unfortuate sacking, Sky Sports stated that Hughton:
…brought calmness, dignity and respect to the Magpies’ dugout
The Chris Hughton family keep the man grounded even if there’s already a strong connection to the game. He’s married to Cheryl Hughton and has children, Cian Hughton, Carleen Hughton, Aisha and Leon. Chris Hughton son, Cian Hughton is a defender who was released from Birmingham City. Chris’s brother, Henry Hughton, lined out for Leyton Orient once upon a time.
What’s to come for Chris Hughton?
So much of his reputation in the coming months seems like it might just rest on the seagull’s start. It will no doubt be a hectic Premier League season. But Hughton already ranks huigh among the list of Brighton managers. He seems the kind of manager to take things in his stride. With a managerial technique based on the simplicity of discipline, correct training and a good atmosphere, there’s no better candidate to take over from Martin O’Neill when the time comes.
Header Image: Goal.com