On Monday, Brighton Hove & Albion Football Club announced they had sacked Chris Hughton, after five years of collaboration. Hughton, the only British black manager in the EPL, brought Brighton to the EPL from the lower leagues and kept them at the top for two consecutive seasons, adding an impressive run in the FA Cup where they lost 1-0 to English champions Manchester City.
Hughton joined Brighton when they were still in the Championship (England’s second tier) in 2014. In 2017, they finished second in the league and won automatic promotion to the EPL. He became the first black manager to win the Manager of the Month award in February 2018 .
The ex-Newcastle and ex-Spurs manager found life in the EPL tough for his team as he finished 15th in his first season and 17th in the second. The first two seasons are usually the hardest for teams promoted to the EPL, especially the first one where they are ill-equipped in terms of their squad to cope with the pace and physicality of the league.
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As TV deals become more lucrative, EPL teams have more money than ever to strengthen their squads, meaning it’s easy for recently promoted teams to drop back in the Championship right away, exempli gracia: Fulham and Cardiff City were both immediately relegated, even though Fulham invested massively in their squad at the start of the season.
Hughton’s undoing was his team’s dismal end of the season. Brighton started the 2018/2019 season brightly but endured a streak of three wins in 23 games towards the end, grazing the final relegation spot before achieving safety with a game to spare.
It could be that the Brighton management see this as a regression but 15th to 17th is nothing, especially when you consider the squad Hughton has at this disposal compared to the competition.
For a better standing in the league, they will need significant investment, whether it’s in the scouting department or on expensive talent for their playing squad. If that investment is to be made, why not have the guy who brought you to the EPL have a go at it? If the level of investment is to be maintained at it’s current relatively okay level, who better to manage the team than Hughton? He’s been managing it for 5 years now and has done a pretty good job at staying in the EPL.
Football is a fickle game. One day you’re a hero, the next you’re sacked.
We will know soon enough if Brighton will hire a more apt manager and if it works out or not. The EPL is back in August. Meanwhile, Hughton will find plenty of suitors. West Bromwich Albion have already been touted as a potential destination, given they recently pulled a “Brighton” themselves, sacking Darren Moore (incidentally one of the rare black managers in England’s top leagues) even though they were in fourth position, still fighting for promotion.
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No wonder Troy Townsend, Kick it Out’s Head of Development, lost it this week when Brighton made the announcement. Black managers are a rarity and whenever one is fired, there is bound to be plenty of scrutiny.
It could just be that Brighton decided to take a gamble and bet on the next manager to take them to the next level. Nothing wrong with that but based on Hughton’s tenure at the club, this decision is not one which makes the most sense.
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