IT WAS one of the most surprise stories of the football season when Brighton sacked the man responsible for their return to the Premier League.
The South Coast outfit dismissed Chris Hughton after a 17th placed finish at the end of the 2019/20 season. To say that the football world was stunned would be an understatement. The man himself told this correspondent that he was equally surprised by his dismal. Nobody saw it coming.
So, Graham Potter was installed and guess what? Unless there’s is a serious upturn in fortunes Brighton will be relegated.
The question is, and no doubt it will be answered in May, are Brighton any better off without Hughton?
“Chris has done an excellent job by securing our first ever promotion to the Premier League”
They currently sit 15th in the table after a 1-0 loss to local rivals Crystal Palace on February 29.
Brighton defender Dan Burn quite rightly remains optimistic. “We’ve had a lot of openings, so to come away with nothing is very frustrating,” he confessed.
“The positive is that we are creating chances, I’d be a lot more worried if we were coming away from matches having not created any at all.
“We’ve got very good players in the forward areas and for one reason for another, it didn’t drop for us at the weekend. We probably need that bit of luck. They had a couple of chances and took one of them, but that’s football.”
The problem for the nosediving Seagulls, is that six of their final ten fixtures do not generate enthusiasm. They have to face Wolves, Arsenal, Leicester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City. And all this having not had a single victory in their last five games.
The facts used to nail Hughton, one of the few black managers in the professional English game, were that his team won just three of their last 23 league games and none of their final nine. Chairman Tony Bloom said that run “put our status at significant risk.
“Chris has done an excellent job, first stabilising our club – reaching the play-offs in his first full season – securing our first ever promotion to the Premier League, and retaining our status in two successive seasons.”
Hughton, who joined Albion in December 2014, led the club to the Premier League for the first time in 2017, and they finished 15th in their first season back in the top flight.
There was talk that Brighton fans, and hierarchy, were not enamoured with Hughton’s brand of football which could be described as steady if nothing else.
The clamour for a more expansive game saw Potter get his chance. However, while his team may pass the ball more times than Hughton’s, the points tally would, at this stage, not suggest that sacking Hughton was the best move.
Hughton’s sacking means there is now just one BAME manager in the Premier League – Wolves’ Nuno Espirito Santo – while there are just three in the English Football League.
As Liverpool legend John Barnes stated in a recent Voice Online opinion piece, white managers lose their jobs if their teams do not perform but qualified that point by adding that black managers do not happen to get the same regularity of opportunity.
Hughton is currently lost to the game. All those connected with Brighton will be hoping that their lucrative Premier League status is not lost next spring. Hoteliers, shopkeepers and restaurants will all feel the pinch should they drop out of the most lucrative league in world football.
Are Brighton any better off without Chris Hughton? The answer has to be no. And certainly by the evidence offered up by the South Coast outfit so far this campaign.