News: Hughton For Labour Leader?

Posted on 19th April 2017

Here’s an idea for the Labour Party, though it might not go down well in Brighton. Why not give left-leaning Chris Hughton a bell? After all, with promotion to the Premier League secured, he is notionally free until June 8. He knows how to run a campaign, how to build a team, how to harness the talents of those around him. And he deals in pragmatic visions not woolly dreams about the great collective. Brighton do not play football with a grandiose flourish. They turn up, graft for each other, understand their roles and get on with it. Brighton are not a football movement but a down-to-earth organisation that stays in touch with its constituents without pretending theirs is the promised land. What the Labour Party could do with a leader like him, a proven winner who does what it says on the tin. Sadly for Labour, Hughton ruled himself out of politics years ago, though his solidly ‘working class’ upbringing in the Forest Gate quarter of London’s east end will see him cast his vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s rudderless vessel. Hughton, Football’s Most Significant English Manager Hughton is arguably the most significant Anglo/Irish manager working in football, an ethnic totem carrying the torch for football’s Black, Asian and minority ethnic workforce. He wishes his ethnicity were not a factor but recognises that while those of a BAME background remain underrepresented in management he is cast in a significant role. The Brighton board deserve credit for retaining Hughton’s services following last season’s disappointment when they fell to Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs after starting the campaign so strongly. For Brighton chairman Tony Bloom, who is more fan than executive, ownership offers a unique connection to the town of his birth and the club he has supported boy and man. The professional gambler has splashed more than £250 million on the Brighton project during his eight-year tenure, every philanthropic penny of which has been offered without thought of a return on investment. His Reward Was The Sack When Hughton was appointed three years ago, survival was the goal, not promotion, which explains Bloom’s attachment to a coach whom others might have jettisoned after the play-off trauma. Indeed this was Hughton’s reward at Newcastle after guiding the Magpies to the Premier League in his first term as permanent manager. Owner Mike Ashley had little faith in Hughton initially, appointing him in the caretaker role after the departure of kevin Keegan. He returned to the caretaker role a second time following Alan Shearer’s unsuccessful attempt to keep Newcastle in the Premier League in 2009. The position hardened into a permanent post when he proved rather good at his job. Winning promotion at the first attempt was not good enough for Ashley, however, and he was gone by December 2010 with the club in 12th place. The irony of Brighton’s surge to automatic promotion while Newcastle make the Toon Army sweat under the leadership of the high end, foreign guru, Rafa Benitez, whose previous post had been at the helm of Real Madrid, could not be more marked. Newcastle and their 50,000 plus crowds are everything Brighton are not, prestigious, expectant, luminous, exotic. Yet it is little Albion who are first through the Premier League door. Shimmering Tributes, Headbands And Perms The idea of spinning the managerial wheel 12 months ago did not occur to Bloom, who knew well enough he had the real deal already on the staff. Hughton earned this shimmering tribute after the win against Wigan that secured Brighton’s return to the top flight for the first time since headbands and perms were de rigueur (1983). “Chris has been here for two and a half seasons and done a magnificent job,” Bloom said. “We were in a bad position when he came in. The first stage of what he needed to do was get us to stay up [in the Championship]. He did that. “It wasn’t pretty or easy, but you have that in football. Even the biggest clubs in the world have bad seasons. We’ve recruited very well, the team spirit is fantastic and he has done remarkably well in a very tough league. It’s thoroughly deserved. Things are magnificent.” Bloom insists Hughton will be at the Amex for ever and that he will not succumb to the spending reflex that frequently makes victims of unfashionable interlopers negotiating Premier League immersion. Hmmm. Hughton is good but not good enough to survive without taking his employer for a few quid in the transfer market. That is a negotiation for the summer. Besides Bloom’s most important trade will be to hold on to his man. He’s a hot ticket now.

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