Former Norwich City midfielder Ian Crook hails Chris Hughton as ideal choice

Former Norwich City midfielder and coach Ian Crook has welcomed the likely appointment of his former team-mate, Chris Hughton, as the new manager at Carrow Road.

The two men were at Tottenham together as players in the 1980s and Crook hailed the 'smart footballer' who struck out on his own in management after years on the coaching staff at White Hart Lane. The 53-year-old Hughton has been in talks with the Canaries after Birmingham 'reluctantly' gave them permission to speak to him.

Speaking from Australia, where he is head coach of Sydney FC, Crook said: 'If it's the case that it is to be Chris as manager, then brilliant. He was a lovely guy, and still is. He's not changed. He was good with us younger players at Spurs – he was a little bit older than me – and I just couldn't say anything but good about him. I don't know anybody who didn't get on with Chris and he was popular with all the boys.'

Full-back Hughton was a regular in the Tottenham side, a double FA Cup winner and UEFA Cup winner, when Crook was coming through the ranks in a team filled with star names.

'He was a smart footballer and in the time he came through it was a team with some great players like Steve Perryman, Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles and he will have learned a great deal from them,' said Crook. 'They all went on to management and a lot of that team went on into coaching roles. Chris was always one who looked like he would go ahead and do the same.'

Crook believes Hughton's background as player and track record as manager make him a good fit for Norwich.

'It helps that Norwich have a tradition of trying to play the right way and being at Spurs that will be his way as well,' he said. 'I think he did an excellent job at Newcastle and was unlucky to lose the job when he did. Losing in the play-offs with Birmingham was a disappointment for him but he did a good job there, too. It looks like very interesting times for Norwich.'

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However, Crook, 49, admitted he was surprised by Paul Lambert's exit from Carrow Road. Crook, who worked under Lambert for a season as reserve team boss, said he thought the Scot would have stayed longer.

'I think we always knew in time he would move on but I suppose the only surprise to me was probably the timing,' he said. 'After having had such a good year at Norwich in the Premier League I thought he would probably try to build on that. They did so well I thought he might have stayed around for another year or so. Aston Villa didn't have the greatest of seasons and it will certainly be a challenge for him.'

Crook, who returned to Australia in June 2010, signed a two-year deal with Sydney FC last month after spending two years as their National Youth League coach and A-League assistant coach, and working as head coach at New South Wales Institute of Sport.