Chris Hughton believes Norwich City can hold their own in Premier League
There will always be the rich and the not so rich in English football's top division – but new Norwich City boss Chris Hughton believes that with astute management they can continue to hold their own among the elite.
Hughton is realistic enough to know that the likelihood of a club the size of Norwich ever repeating their feat of finishing third in the top flight, as they did in the first Premier League season, two decades ago, is remote.
A top three finish now would guarantee Champions League football, but it has become a pipedream for all but the wealthiest six or seven clubs in the land.
Nevertheless, the Canaries demonstrated under Paul Lambert last season that it is possible to live and thrive among the high and mighty of Manchester, Merseyside and London, progress he hopes to maintain.
'It's tough and I think it will be tough next season and the season afterwards,' said Hughton. 'There are always going to be imbalances. There will always be Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal who are on a completely different level from where we are. But that's the challenge you have.'
Money invariably buys success, but it doesn't guarantee you can beat every team every week.
'If that was the case then it would almost not be worth playing,' said Hughton. 'Manchester United would win everything, Arsenal and Manchester City would win every game but it doesn't work out that way because it's not just about the money you pay for somebody.
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'It's about creating spirit, having a team that wants to work hard, and trying to get tactics right - and those are the challenges you have against every team you play.
'It is an exciting prospect and I'm excited by the prospect of being here but that's management. It's still about management. You have to work around what you have, the restrictions, the advantages and disadvantages and try to do the best job you can.
'This is a club that managed to sustain Premier League status and when I took the job there was a feelgood factor.
'If you said would I settle for exactly the same as last season, then of course I would. But it is about trying to improve.'
The Canaries are in Austria this week for pre-season training, preparing for their first warm-up match against Hertha Berlin in Gleisdorf on Saturday, with the first Premier League fixture of 2012-13 at Fulham less than five weeks away.
Like his predecessor, Hughton is anxious to keep fans' ambitions at a reasonable level as a new campaign beckons.
'Certainly at times it is about dampening expectations because we start the season no different to how we started last season,' he said.
'We're playing in such a tough division, and I suppose what Wigan and Stoke and West Brom have been able to do over a period of seasons now has been to try to improve and sustain their status year on year.
'But I'm quite sure at the beginning of every season they would have realised how tough it's going to be so that doesn't change.
'I do realise expectations change, particularly after the last season. What we can do as much as possible is keep people's feet on the ground, try not to get too carried away with good results and try not to be too down with difficult and poor results.
'There has to be a way of managing poor results because you can't do well every single week. If I look at the achievements of even Wigan, the last few seasons, they have really fought right up until the last few games and you've got a manager that's had to manage that week in, week out.
'It's a massively difficult league to do well in. You have to be on top of your game and that's why managers and staff work as hard as they do. You have to be on top of everything - the sciences, making sure you've got players fit, making sure you're able to put your best players out. It's a difficult league, full stop.'