Chris Hughton: the master of the Championship

Sean Lunt

Saturday afternoon saw Brighton and Hove Albion finally make it to the Premier League. After play-off heartbreak in three of their last five seasons, the Seagulls will finally be playing top-flight football. How has Chris Hughton done it?

Before him, a succession of managers has failed to get the club over the final hurdle. Yet, this manager is set to do it comfortably.

Even Newcastle United, who were heavy favourites to win the league from the outset under Rafa Benitez, have fallen in Brighton’s wake.

Hughton has vast experience in the Championship; in fact, he’s a proven winner in the division.

First, he led Newcastle United to the title with a total of 102 points, a full 11 points ahead of second-placed West Bromwich Albion, that season.

Only one team in the history of the Championship has managed to accrue more points as champions. That’s how impressive his Newcastle side was.

After his stint in the North East came to a dubious end he moved to Birmingham City and guided them to fourth in the league and a play-off spot.

They eventually lost to Blackpool but the fact Hughton guided them to fourth in the table is a fact that should not be overlooked.

Norwich City was his next club and he guided them to 11th in the Premier League table in his first season in charge. That’s the Canaries highest ever finish in the top flight.

Unlike Sami Hyypia, Oscar Garcia and Gus Poyet, Hughton has vast experience in the Championship and that know-how has proven invaluable in securing promotion.

That experience meant he knew one piece of information; a strong defence is the key to getting out of the Championship.

Last season all three promoted teams, including play-off winners Hull, had the three best defensive records in the division. Hughton recognised that fact.

In 43 games so far this season, his team has conceded 36 goals, just 0.8 goals per game. They will finish the season having conceded just 38 goals if that continues, the fewest they’ve let in during their time in the Championship. That’s impressive by anyone’s reckoning.

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While the defence has proven crucial, individual performances have also helped the cause. It is, however, the experience of those players that has been crucial.

In this regard, Hughton has pulled off a masterstroke in his recruitment. This current squad is full to the brim of players with an understanding of how the Championship works.

In Shane Duffy, they secured a player who has been impressing in the Championship for several years since leaving Everton.

In Anthony Knockaert, they got a playmaker that is a star at this level. Up top, the goals from Glenn Murray have proved invaluable.

Murray, in particular, has proven himself before now. In the 2012/13 season, he finished the campaign with 30 league goals. Those goals got Crystal Palace to the Premier League.

Just like their manager, these players, as well as the core nucleus of the squad that missed out last year, all know how to work to their best in the division.

All of these things have created the perfect storm at the Amex this season but Chris Hughton has navigated the ship superbly. It’s time the 58-year-old started getting the credit he deserves.

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