Chris Hughton happy to swot up on Norwich City
The cost of Chris Hughton's pending holiday is likely to include an excess baggage charge.
Norwich City's new manager intends to watch every last minute of the Canaries' Premier League campaign to equip himself with a forensic knowledge of the players now under his command. Hughton's period of rest and relaxation will also be dominated by thoughts of the Premier League fixture list released later this month and the pre-season schedule – which the club revealed yesterday includes high-profile home fixtures against Ajax and Borussia Monchengladbach along with a trip to Celtic and a game against Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin on July 21 at the end of a week-long Austrian training camp. Hughton hinted at his unveiling on Thursday he was content to run with the provisional programme of friendlies inherited by his predecessor.
'If it's one I'm very happy with, I'm more than happy to keep it as it is,' he said. But certainly if I feel I need to make any changes, or tweak things a little bit, I will do that. I think firstly it's for me to get my feet under the table and assess what we've got player-wise, the organisation of pre-season, and then very much now looking forward to the fixtures coming out on June 18. That's always a really exciting day. I've got lots of things to assess first because this all happened very quickly. Even over the last couple of days until it was really finalised, I haven't attempted to speak with anybody or to look at any games. But I do have a pile of all the (Norwich) games which I will be going away on holiday and I'll take them with me.'
Hughton's back catalogue of City's highs and lows from a memorable top flight campaign will play an essential part in his assessment of a squad that he will also look to reinforce. The 53-year-old has already been touted with a raid on his former club Birmingham for centre back Curtis Davies, but City's manager insists right now the focus remains on getting to know his new charges – underlined by Russell Martin's new three-year deal announced yesterday to cap an uplifting week for the club.
'There is a lot to do regarding the players and speaking to as many as I can and to go through as much of last season as I can,' he said. 'When we are back for pre-season that is where most of the hard work starts. We will set the team up for the start of the season, but it is also about additions to the squad. I am ready and can't wait to get down to that.
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'At this moment it is a period of assessing. I will do that over the next few days, assess what I want, but at this moment I'm happy to be here, happy with the squad that's here and I'm happy to assess what we've got and make the decisions every manager has to make at this time of year.' Club chairman Alan Bowkett revealed at Hughton's unveiling that the former Tottenham coach headed a shortlist with a heavy Continental flavour. A similar ethos could percolate through to City's future player recruitment plans, with returning ex-chief scout Ewan Chester a key man in the process following Paul Lambert's previous success at mining the lower levels of the Football League for starlets like Anthony Pilkington and Elliott Bennett.
'I think we need think a little more internationally now, and with Chris' background we will be able to do that,' said Bowkett. 'I am delighted that Ewan is joining us again, who is a great advocate of young talent when he was with Paul previously and we would expect to cast our net out a little wider than before. We have picked the low hanging fruit, if you want to look at it like that, and I think Paul recognised that as well and to be fair to him he was preparing to look at wider horizons as well.'
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Hughton won the Uefa Cup as a player with Spurs and more recently guided Birmingham to within a point of qualifying for the knock-out stages of last season's Europa League. The Blues' also reached the Championship play-offs despite operating under a transfer embargo and Hughton conceded it was a wrench to leave St Andrews after such a successful campaign against the odds.
'I don't think it would be wrong of me to say that it was difficult because I had a very good year there and the supporters have been excellent with me,' he said. 'It's a wonderful club and I had a very good staff. and a good relationship, and in particular the administration staff and more so Peter Pannu, who in the most difficult times at the club I've had a very good relationship with. But as soon as that call came it's because of the standing that Norwich has and the fact that it's a wonderful job in the Premier League. I shall forever be grateful to Birmingham for the last year.'
The Second City club had offered him a way back into the game after his time at Newcastle ended on a sour note following a triumphal Championship title win in 2010. Hughton, however, does not view Norwich as the chance to prove a Premier League point or two.
'No, not really, because I think you can only really look back at what you achieved and if in yourself you can look at yourself and feel that you've done the best job that you can, and you've worked as hard as you can, then it's part and parcel of the game,' he said. 'It's something that you have to move on from.
'I've got very fond and good memories of my time at Newcastle and I've always preferred to look at it that way than in any other way.'