Not every assistant coach makes a good assistant manager. But Norwich City Chris Hughton boss has proved otherwise.
The 53-year-old honed his skills as an assistant coach at Tottenham, Newcastle and also a stint as Brian Kerr’s assistant with the Republic of Ireland.
And he has impressed during his three and a half year managerial career at Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich.
The former Ireland defender provided the steadying hand which steered Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first attempt in 2009-10 and was then harshly sacked with the Magpies sitting in a comfortable league position in their first season back.
The following season he got a recently relegated Birmingham City into the Championship playoffs at the first attempt and almost got the club out of their Europa League group.
This term, Hughton’s Norwich had made a slow start after he replaced the recently departed Paul Lambert.
But starting with the impressive 1 – 0 victory over Arsenal on October 20th Norwich have been unbeaten in their last nine matches – winning five of those.
That run of results has caused the Canaries to soar up to 12th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.
The recent success suggests that Hughton is getting his ideas across and that has put his managerial skills back in the spotlight – something which could of interest to the FAI in two years’ time.
First and foremost, Hughton is an excellent man manager who has proven popular with his players. This first became apparent during his time at Newcastle where Andy Carroll, Kevin Nolan and even the ever-troublesome Joey Barton mourned his sacking.
Man management has been a problem for the Republic of Ireland under Giovanni Trapattoni with the Italian having an uneasy relationship with a significant number of players including Shane Long, James McClean and Darron Gibson.
When Trap steps down in 2014 there will still be wounds that need healing which may require the skills of a proven man manager.
In the summer of 2009, West Ham midfieler Nolan revealed that Hughton used to seek the counsel of Newcastle’s senior players with whom he would discuss ideas, which is anathema to the current Ireland management team.
Too much democracy in the dressing room can also be counterproductive but Hughton seems to be getting the balance right.
He has also been praised for his good organisational work behind the scenes which has seen Norwich’s defence improve markedly as the season has worn on.
He has also favours a less archaic formation with Wes Hoolahan featuring in the hole in his preferred 4-4-1-1 formation.
It is too early to sing anyone’s praises in regard to the Ireland job. But when it becomes available again in two years’ time, Hughton should be a strong contender.