Softly, softly approach is only part of Norwich City manager Chris Hughton’s story
In the first of a three-part series previewing the Canaries' Premier League opener at Fulham this weekend, EDP Norwich City writer Paddy Davitt speaks to Chris Hughton to discover more about the man at the Carrow Road helm.
Spend enough time in the company of Chris Hughton and you risk labouring under the misapprehension Norwich City's manager is in the wrong profession.
Softly-spoken, measured, courteous, generous with his time – Hughton does not immediately strike you as a man well-equipped to flourish in a line of employment where only a select few measure longevity in seasons rather than months at the same football club.
Hughton was a victim of his own success in the goldfish bowl more commonly known as Newcastle United. Less a football club, more a north-east institution, where his ability to guide the Magpies' back from the abyss at the first attempt following Premier League relegation fell short of the owner's exalted expectations.
The City boss handled his exit with dignity. It was a measure of the man. At Birmingham he guided the Blues on an historic Europa League adventure, the later rounds of the FA Cup and the Championship play-offs. A body of work forged through counting the pennies and only dreaming about the pounds as he operated in a financial straightjacket imposed by the authorities on the St Andrews' hierarchy.
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Hughton was the overwhelming choice of the Canaries' board when they had to venture into the market for Paul Lambert's replacement. The experienced Londoner is unlikely to be daunted by stepping into the large shadow cast by Lambert.
Hughton's tone is softer in emphasis than his predecessor. But do not mistake softness for weakness.
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'Everybody is different and you manage around your personality and I think if you can be controlled and measured then you have to strive to be that way,' he says. 'I can assure you I can get as angry as most when I see things I don't like. What we all want to see is a team that is trying to have a go and that is working hard for their team-mates and working hard for this club. Generally if you get that, then you are quite happy.
'If you need to be angry, if you need to pull players aside and be aggressive with players then I have no problem with that. It has got to be right. I have got a good staff and we get on very well together. I would like to think we all have different strengths.
'It is all angled towards one thing and that is giving the players the best opportunity to learn, improve, to do well and that is all you can do as a coaching staff and spend time with them on the training field.'
Hughton is defined by his work as a football manager. He is also a visible role model in a game where race continues to be a divisive issue, judging by the sad events of recent months at the very highest levels of our national sport.
Hughton accepts his continued success in management, along with that of Chris Powell at newly-promoted Championship club Charlton, ensure he will inevitably be portrayed as a leading character in the drive to promote inclusiveness. The Norwich chief is acutely aware of his responsibilities.
'Of course it is something I am conscious of,' he says. 'It is something that I am very proud of and if in any small way people see me as any type of role model it is a position that I am very accepting of and proud of. I have spoken about this in the past and I have been asked the question before about the amount of black managers in the game and I generally feel that there will be improvements.
'There are certainly more coaches of black and ethnic backgrounds that are involved in the game now at grassroots level and academy level and development level and I think it is just about the next stages of that process now. I believe St George's Park will play a big part in that. It is not something that I generally think about, but something I am well aware about because I am asked enough times for my comments. I'm comfortable with that and for what I do in my career if that can in any way encourage or promote anything then I am quite happy with that.'