Seagulls target mid-table mediocrity for now
6 January ~ When Sami Hyypia called time on his short spell as manager of Brighton & Hove Albion, the club were left searching for their fourth permanent manager since moving into the Amex stadium in the summer of 2011. A vast array of names were subsequently bandied about including Tony Pulis, Tim Sherwood and, perhaps most bizarrely, Sven-Göran Eriksson, who was installed as an early favourite with the bookies.
Lurking a little further down the list of likely new bosses, almost unnoticed, was Chris Hughton. Albion’s chairman Tony Bloom decided Hughton, with an enviable record at Championship level, was the right person for the job and the man regarded by many to be among the nicest in football was back in paid employment.
Having had three supposedly up-and-coming foreign managers in a row, some wondered how the fans would accept an understated 56-year-old who was shown the door by Norwich City. The early signs are that this is not going to be a problem.
Gus Poyet was popular but always gave the impression he had one eye on his next managerial move. Óscar Garcia inherited a strong squad and reached the play-offs but his side capitulated against Derby County and he then left after just one season. And Hyypia? Well, he won fewer league games at Brighton than he had trophies as a player with Liverpool.
As a result a large majority of Albion fans just seem happy to have someone who promises stability. Hughton should provide just that. He certainly has the track-record to turn things round at Brighton having previously taken Newcastle United to the Championship title at a canter and led Birmingham City to fourth in the highly competitive second tier.
Against Brentford in the FA Cup at the weekend the 1,600 travelling fans enthusiastically chanted the manager’s name before he had even reached the away bench. By the time the team had clinched a 2-0 win those choruses had intensified.
Most seem confident that Hughton has the nous to stabilise the Seagulls over the coming months before reshaping the squad in the summer for a renewed push at promotion. Hughton is not the most exciting appointment the Albion have ever made. But, unusually for a team which has made the play-offs in both of the last two seasons, mid-table mediocrity in 2014-15 will be more than enough to endear a new manager to the supporters. Richard Morris