SportSoccer

Brighton manager Chris Hughton slams foreign owners for 'intolerable pressure' put on bosses

SoccerBy Kevin Palmer
Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton

Chris Hughton has accused foreign owners at England's top clubs of ap­plying intolerable pressure on managers in the drive for quick-fire success, as he suggests the days of long-term planning for touchline tacticians are over.

In an exclusive and candid interview with the Sunday World, Brighton boss Hughton has hit out at the demand for instant results as he fears the art of management has been sidelined in a sacking culture inspired by owners lacking knowledge of the game.

Hughton points out that no-one is immune from the threat of the axe, with a 'crisis' liable to bub­ble up after a few weeks of bad results - as some of the game's biggest names have discovered this season.

Serial winners Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola felt the heat after poor results in their first few months with Manchester's top two clubs, while Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was in the firing line after a disastrous slump in form during January.

Meanwhile, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Leicester chief Claudio Ranieri appear to be running out of time in their bid to sustain success in their jobs, with Hughton suggesting managers need to appreciate their long-term planning should not extend beyond a solitary season.

"We are at a stage now that you are no longer surprised when a manager gets sacked," says former Ireland defender Hughton at Brighton's AMEX Stadium.

"In the Championship division I'm working in, we saw seven managers lose their jobs in the space of a month from the start of October and that highlighted again the demand for immediate success with so many managers sacked this season.

"You are not given time to put your ideas into a team, which is a shame but this is not going to change given the make-up of the leagues we are working in now.

"We have a lot more foreign owners in the game now and they might not always have a view that stability is positive at their club.

"They want to see them winning next weekend and changing a man­ager can be seen as a way they can improve things."

With half of the clubs in the Cham­pionship division owned by overseas companies or businessmen and 15 out of 20 Premier League clubs in foreign hands, Hughton argues the impulsive decision-making by investors lacking experience in soccer is affecting decisions.

"The extra money in the game now has brought extra pressure," he continues.

"Look at the Paul Pogba transfer to Manchester United last summer. It was a world-record deal and that means it quickly creates pressure for everyone involved.

"Pogba has to live up to his price tag and his manager needs him to perform to justify the fee paid. Everyone is ex­pected to deliver when that much money is involved. The more the owner gives you, the more he expects. That situation will never change, whatever level you are operating at.

"I look at the pressure someone like Wenger is under at Arsenal or Mourinho at United, and these highly suc­cessful managers should have earned the right to be trusted.

"The current game is all about instant success and we know that when we get into management, but there needs to be an understanding from supporters and club owners and it isn't always there.

"I don't want to criticise all foreign owners but you get the impression that some decisions are made on managers without a real knowledge of the game.

"All managers ask for is a chance to build foundations but that isn't always possible any more."

Hughton fell victim to what were viewed by many as unfortunate sackings, at Newcastle and then Nor­wich, but he has found the ideal club to lay down roots as he edges towards his second season at the Brighton helm.

Celebrity poker star Tony Bloom made his for­tune from online gambling websites before he bought Brighton in 2009, with Hughton's appointment one of the safest bets he has made.

After years as a highly respected assistant to the likes of George Graham, Glenn Hoddle and as Brian Kerr's second-in-command during his stint as Ireland manager, Hughton has made a hugely successful transition from sidekick to main man.

Championship promotion with New­castle preceded his needless sacking in 2010, before he so nearly guided penniless Birmingham to Premier League promotion in 2012.

Initial success at Norwich was backed up by a difficult season that ended with his sacking in April 2014, yet his latest assignment is the per­fect fit for a manager who appeared to be relishing his challenge as he guided me around Brighton's impres­sive ground.

"You just have to look around this stadium to realise that this club is ready to move forward," says Hughton, as we walked down the tunnel and into the media lounge to conduct our interview.

"The training ground is first class and while we don't want to tempt fate by saying it is ready for the Premier League, clearly this is a club with that kind of ambition.

"My time here so far has been positive and aside from the huge disappointment of missing out on promotion in what were pretty unfor­tunate circumstances last year, the response we have all had this year has been fantastic.

"People may have wondered if we had blown our chance to get into the Premier League as we came so close to automatic promotion and then missed out in the play-offs, but you dust yourself down from that and go again."

Hughton has overseen a remarkable run of success for Brighton over the last 12 months, winning 31 and losing just four times in regular Champion­ship games from mid-January last year through to the end of last month.

Yet a defeat at Huddersfield Town early this month and a dramatic 3-3 draw at Brentford last Sunday week served as timely reminders that they still face a big task in the coming months.

"What we have seen in the last cou­ple of matches is that this division can bite you if you are not at your best," adds Hughton.

"The intensity of the Championship is what makes it such a challenge, not just physically, but mentally. It's hard to maintain a level of performance over a 46-game season, but that is the challenge in this league."

A weekend victory over Burton Albion followed by a draw against Ipswich on Tuesday, both at the AMEX stadium, see Hughton's outfit sittting in second position in the table - one point off table-toppers Newcastle United and four ahead of third-placed Huddersfield.

It's something of a mystery that Hughton's name is not put forward when big jobs become available in the Premier League, yet he will be hoping that his latest chance in the top flight will come without the need of an invitation.

Brighton's consistency under Hughton's guidance provides evi­dence that stable management at the top of a club can reap rewards.

It is a business model few owners are willing to employ in English football these days.