Is Hughton the answer to Scotland’s manager search?


Chris Hughton’s dismissal as manager of Brighton and Hove Albion came as a shock to most. His side is considerably lesser resourced than most in that division yet relegation was avoided.

But the board took the view that results in the latter half of the season concerned them enough to necessitate a change, a decision frankly met with bafflement by most fans and writers.

While the Sussex club’s board surely already had a replacement in mind with Swansea’s Graeme Potter already being mentioned, that does leave the question of what’s next for Chris Hughton?

He may rightly be the target of any Championship club with a vacancy, and even an EPL club or two might be tempted to create a vacancy now that he is available. But there is a third possibility that superficially seems the product of outside the box thinking.

The Scotland job is still available and other than not being Scottish, Hughton checks many of the boxes the Scottish Football Association may want checked.

Firstly, he has experience of the international scene, when he was Brian Kerr’s assistant during his tenure as manager of the Republic of Ireland.

Secondly, when it comes to mixing a side of pure bred footballers with those qualifying for the international side using a more distant connection, there is no better place to have learned the ins and outs than the Irish national side. That co-mingling is now seemingly a permanent feature of the Scottish side and Hughton would be well versed to handle it.

Admittedly, he has no knowledge of the Scottish club game but a good choice of assistant could fill that shortfall. Steve Clarke who himself is a more than worthy candidate for the top job could fulfill that role.

Conor Brennan occasionally writes on Irish football for this site. He remembers the former Tottenham full back’s contribution for the Emerald Green fondly:

“There are a few things I’ll always remember about Hughton’s Irish playing career.

“He was utterly dependable, a sound, giving it 110% type. He was a ferocious tackler, but far from a dirty one. Uncompromising I think is the word.

“The look of sheer exhaustion and exhilaration on his face when Ireland beat England 1-0 in Euro ‘88 is one I’ll long remember as the Irish defense had played under constant pressure for 84 minutes.

“He was never the star in any side, but was only left out when he was injured. He was that good.

“Away from football, there was always a lot of respect and pride to see him so involved and leading various anti-racism and Free Nelson Mandela campaigns.”

If Brennan speaks to the character of Hughton as a man, others have a closer in view of him as a manager.

Richard Amofa is a journalist who follows both the EPL and international football. He was in no doubt as to Hughton’s qualifications to make the step up:

“I think now he’s available, Chris Hughton would be a great candidate for the Scotland job.

“He’s got a proven track record at the top of the game, doing well at Newcastle and Brighton. Scotland are very similar to these sides, in that they lack fire power and don’t have enough quality going forward.

“However, as they have now become leaky at the back, we’re now seeing a regression – as proven with the defeat to Kazakhstan in March.

“What Hughton would bring is organisation and make Scotland a hard team to beat. While he won’t be able to work day-to-day with the players, his astuteness will see him make a quick impact.

“His attention to detail is incredible and every player will know exactly what is required of them when they enter the pitch, whether it’s out of possession or set pieces. His man-management also means that he can get the best out of players and help them reach full potential.

“Yes, there are questions about his style of football but Scotland need to go back to basics now and get some points on the board.

“There is talent in the squad, and with a strong, well-drilled unit, they can see progression over the next few years. This can certainly be done with Hughton in charge.”

Of course, Amofa hasn’t endured the ups and downs of Hughton’s style like a Brighton fan, grappling with the fear of relegation until days before the end of he season; so we asked Seagulls fan Steve Fletcher for his views.

He was not as certain as Amofa that Hughton was cut out for international football.

“Hughton has a career track record that replicates his recent Brighton journey. At both Newcastle and Norwich he got below par sides out of the Championship and then struggled with them in the Premier League when they added ‘stars’ to their squads.

“That to me sets off alarm bells and thankfully the club have acted now before it’s too late.

Would Hughton find success at international level?

“I suspect not, as my fears are that he will struggle to gel the best of the nation that come under his charge whenever the international side meets up.”

Fletcher also had doubts if the lack of time spent with the players would allow Hughton to build the team spirit he did so successfully at club level.

“Will he have the time and the opportunity to create that togetherness and team spirit within his squad when he’s meeting up infrequently with his players – I suspect not. Will the players buy into his mentality and beliefs? Who knows?”

“Brighton fans should wish him every success in his next venture – which for me, should be at a Championship club, where he can once again do what he does best.”

Fletcher has a point in that he failed to integrate the big money purchases he made into the Seagulls squad.

Hughton made eight first-team signings in the 2018 summer transfer window.

Yves Bissouma has made the most Premier League appearances with 26. He is followed by Martin Montoya (24), Florin Andone (21), Bernardo (20), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (17), Leon Balogun (eight), back-up keeper David Button (four) and third-choice keeper Jason Steele, who played just one FA Cup tie.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh was a club record signing at £17.1m. He made far less of an impact than Watford’s Gerard Deulofeu who cost £6m less. Other examples can be found of players who signed for less money and adapted quicker.

Do Scotland really have that level of player? Certainly there are no outstanding superstars who did not debut under Alex McLeish whose arrival would replicate the circumstances at Brighton.

Hughton’s success seemingly comes when charged with getting the most out of an existing squad and he perhaps seemed distracted by the temptation to add new players at expense.

That distraction would not exist at a Scotland level.

The job is still or should be Steve Clarke’s for the taking but a shortage of other out of work managers with international experience may push Hughton into the reckoning.

He’s surely worth asking.


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