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Forest fire 'Everyone is always striving for that one glorious season' – Chris Hughton

Veteran manager is determined to end Forest’s decades of underachievement

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'The hair-dryer does exist' - Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton gestures on the touchline. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

'The hair-dryer does exist' - Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton gestures on the touchline. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

'The hair-dryer does exist' - Nottingham Forest manager Chris Hughton gestures on the touchline. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Chris Hughton has two promotions to his name, and is approaching 500 matches as a manager, so perhaps it is no surprise when he reveals that behind that calm demeanour lurks an edge of menace.

I’m afraid the Hughton hair-dryer does exist,” he says, smiling. “You always try and stay calm but sometimes that goes out the window on occasions when you blow a little bit. When you’re not happy you want the players to feel the impact, so it has an effect and they know about it.”

Fortunately for the Nottingham Forest dressing-room, Hughton has not had to lose his composure too many times this season, with only two defeats from his last 15 games, following last night’s 1-1 draw at Wayne Rooney’s Derby County.

While Colin Kazim-Richards’ late equaliser cancelled out James Garner’s first-half effort, denying Forest a valuable three points, Hughton’s side remain within reach of the play-off places, and extended their unbeaten run against the old enemy to eight matches.


“It’s a good place to be and there’s a better feel around the club now, certainly better than it was a few months ago,” he says.

“We’ve worked hard to get to this stage but the hardest thing is continuing it. It’s about what I want from the team as a manager, a way of playing and the expectations. Sometimes it can take a little bit of time.”

We’ve been here before with Forest managers, repeating the statistics that hang over the City Ground like a permanent fog.

It is now 22 years since the club last operated in the Premier League.

Since 1999 there have been four play-off semi-finals (all lost) and a solitary promotion out of League One, in more than two decades of underachievement.

Like all his predecessors, Hughton is acutely aware of the history and tradition, and the need to create some achievements of his own.

“Everybody is always striving for that one glorious season when it happens. The supporters will always feel there will be a time when it changes,” he says.

“Forest is still regarded as a big club and not just because of the history. I had other opportunities before I came here but this one really excited me, because of the club’s standing.

“It’s about personal pride for the players and our supporters, to finish the season in the best position we can.”

Results and performances have now resembled Hughton and his management: solid if unspectacular, defined by excellent organisation.


With former Ireland team-mate Mick McCarthy mounting a revival with Cardiff at the age of 62, and the recent appointment of Nigel Pearson (57) at Bristol City, it shows there is still enduring value in appointing experience.

“All these years in management now have helped me cope better,” says Hughton, who was 62 in December.

“My pathway to management was very different: I was an assistant and a first-team coach for a long time and I think that helped me. If you’d ask me if I could do what Wayne Rooney has done by stopping playing and going straight into management (at the age of 35), I wouldn’t have been ready.

“Whether you’re young or old you’ve got to do well or you’re not going to be there too long.”

Hughton’s return to management in October came nearly 18 months after his brutal sacking at Brighton, which polarised opinion. He was dismissed the day after finishing 17th in the Premier League, with the suggestion that the club were intent on providing more entertainment on the pitch.

While Brighton have undoubtedly changed direction under Graham Potter, they go into this weekend only four points above the bottom three.

Hughton said: “I didn’t see it coming and that was the hardest thing. In a lot of jobs, when they are difficult, it’s not a mega-surprise (to be sacked) but it did hit me, I must admit. It did take a good while to get over, but what I’ve always done is look forward to the next challenge. That one is behind me, it’s not my decision and from the moment it happened it was about looking forward.”

It was his longest period out of football since he was 13, when he joined Tottenham’s youth system.

“I made the most out of the time out, watching a lot of games and spending time wisely. I find it hard to keep still,” he says.

“I kept busy and a lot of the time I’d jump on a train to a hotel and take some of my coaching manuals with me or my laptop. But you always want to be working and when you’re away from it, even with all the pressures involved, you do miss it.”

Hughton spends long days at Forest’s training ground, frequently leaving at around 7pm. He lives in an apartment near the city centre for most of the week, but the relentless schedule of the Championship is never far from his thoughts.

Does he ever find time to relax?

“I’m at that stage in my life where I’ve got grandchildren and that probably is my greatest area of switching off,” he says. “They don’t appreciate you might have lost on a Saturday and you might not be in the best of moods, but they soon lift you up.”

Hughton’s influence on the squad is now clear to see, and January was crucial for fine-tuning.

Glenn Murray’s signing from Brighton was evidence of Hughton’s control on recruitment, while he pushed hard to take Filip Krovinovic on loan from Benfica.

Garner, a Manchester United midfielder, has also made a big impact. Hughton calls them “good characters”.

Behind the scenes, Forest’s revered academy continues to provide hope for the future.

The U-23s, now managed by former Republic of Ireland international Andy Reid, are top of the table and the talent factory shows no signs of slowing.

Matty Cash was the most recent departure, now impressing at Aston Villa, and there is huge optimism around the potential of Alex Mighten, Brennan Johnson and Jordan Gabriel.

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