By Jamie Dunn
When Chris Hughton was sacked by Newcastle United during the 2010-11 season, having guided the club back to the Premier League at the first time of asking, the decision was met with anger by players and supporters on Tyneside.
And while the subsequent appointment of Alan Pardew by Mike Ashley has seen the Magpies take great strides in battling for a Champions League place this season, it serves as testament to the new manager's good work and the vindication of the decision to implement a new structure, rather than to condemn Hughton’s stint at St James’ Park.
HUGHTON ON HOLT
"He's a quality player...I'm very conscious of what he means to this club, and absolutely I would like him here."
That period out of work lasted little more than six months, however, when the 53-year-old took over at Birmingham City following their relegation to the Championship.
Hughton could not repeat his exploits at Newcastle with the Midlands club, but the circumstances in which the former Tottenham coach inherited the St. Andrews hot seat dictate that a play-offs semi-final defeat to Blackpool cannot be considered a failure.
Relegation from the Premier League saw Birmingham lose a number of key players at the start of Hughton's reign, including central defensive pairing Scott Dann and Roger Johnson and midfielders Craig Gardner and Barry Ferguson, while goalkeeper Ben Foster left on loan for West Brom and Sebastian Larsson and Kevin Phillips, among others, were released.
Under those circumstances, that Hughton managed to guide Birmingham to a fourth-place finish in the Championship having made comparatively lower budget signings, while juggling domestic commitments - including a 46-game season and a run to the FA Cup fifth round - with a Europa League campaign which saw the Blues travel to Portugal, Slovenia and Belgium, is no small feat.
Now the former Newcastle boss is getting a well-deserved and welcome second crack at England's top flight with Norwich City, but faces an altogether different task.
Under the departed Paul Lambert, the Canaries achieved successive promotions from League One – the third tier of English football – to the Premier League with limited resources.
And, after arriving back in the top flight after a six-year absence, Norwich performed admirably under Lambert, finishing comfortably in 12th place having been tipped for an immediate return to the Championship during pre-season. The was achieved by mixing a direct style of football which played to the strengths of target men Grant Holt and Steve Morison, with a willingness to play out from the back.
|SECOND SEASON SYNDROME?
|6/4||Norwich are 6/4 to be relegated from the Premier League next season with bet365|
Lambert, who has joined Aston Villa, will be a tough act for Hughton to follow at Carrow Road. Especially with Holt, who scored 17 goals this season and defied those who deemed him incapable of repeating his prolific performances in the lower leagues in the top flight, seemingly determined to follow the Scot out the door this summer.
But the former Spurs full-back, who takes assistant Colin Calderwood, coach Paul Trollope and chief scout Ewan Chester with him to East Anglia, is undaunted by the prospect of taking over.
"I think everyone appreciates the job he [Lambert] has done here, and it’s a hard act to follow," said Hughton at his unveiling on Thursday afternoon. "But it’s about a challenge."
The challenge for Hughton must now surely be to keep Norwich City moving forward and avoid an arrest in their development.