Norwich City manager Chris Hughton backs Steve Morison and denies Aston Villa interest

Chris Hughton admitted supporters' criticism of Steve Morison is unfair – and dismissed tabloid speculation linking the striker to a reunion with Paul Lambert at Aston Villa.

With a hamstring injury forcing Grant Holt out of the fold at West Brom, Morison made his first Premier League start since September.

His tough afternoon as a lone striker prompted harsh words from some City fans, but the City boss felt criticism of Morison was undeserved.

'Yes, and also what we have to remember is we've had a very stable team for a period of time,' said Hughton. 'That's really been based not on the inabilities of those who haven't made the team, but more so the fact the team has done well and we've decided not to make any changes. It is always difficult – whether it had been Steve Morison or Simeon Jackson, and Harry Kane has just come back – because you've got players there who haven't been playing regularly and to step into the tempo that all the players have gained over a period of time is difficult.

'I thought Stevie did OK, considering he's not started.'

On Villa's rumoured interest, he added: 'Not that I know of. There will be lots of speculation coming into January. It will come thick and fast.'

Whether Morison gets another go against Chelsea at Carrow Road on Boxing Day remains to be seen, with Holt back in training at Colney on Christmas Eve.

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'We will see how he gets on but at this moment yes, it is looking good for Wednesday,' said Hughton. 'Someone like Grant is always going to be a miss but I'm also conscious of the fact that for us it's not about any individuals; it's about a team performance.

'Steve Morison came in, hadn't had a lot of starts and I certainly wouldn't want to under-estimate what he gave us on Saturday. But Grant is a player who has been playing regularly, on good form, and it's certainly good to have him back in the squad.'

One man who definitely misses out on Boxing Day is right-back Steven Whittaker, after a recurrence of his hip injury at The Hawthorns.

The full-back is still yet to finish on a losing side for Norwich since his summer move from Rangers.

'He will certainly miss Chelsea and we will assess it. He is still a little bit sore, which we expected after Saturday's game, so we will assess it over the next couple of games.'