Norwich City are a team in form. Currently enjoying a ten-game unbeaten run, it is the Canaries’ best ever sequence of top-flight results.
Only Premier League table-toppers Manchester United have collected a greater points tally over the same period.
However, Norwich manager Chris Hughton is not one to take things for granted. Having spent over fourteen years in a variety of coaching and assistant roles before becoming a manager, the 54-year-old knows the importance of patience and grounding.
“We’re working in an industry now where there’s always going to be set-backs,” explained Hughton, at the recent four-day FA Licensed Coaches’ Club conference at St.George’s Park.
“As a player you get used to ups and downs: losing a game and getting on with the next one. As a manager you take that on heavier.”
It is understandable that Hughton isn’t getting ahead of himself. The former Newcastle and Birmingham boss has been stung before. Handed his first managerial opportunity at St.James’s Park in 2008, he was unexpectedly sacked in 2010.
The former Republic of Ireland international has found management an altogether different prospect than the role of the assistant.
“The aspect of pressure is different and it can be very lonely at times. Although you have a good staff around you and people close to you, you have gone from being the assistant to the one who has to make the decisions.”
Challenge and change have accompanied Hughton throughout his career. The Norwich manager’s message to the 600 coaches in attendance at the Licensed Coaches’ Club conference reflected as much, urging aspiring hopefuls and experienced coaches alike to develop a thirst for knowledge, take every opportunity to coach and never give up. The game has changed during his time as well.
“What I’ve learned in that time is the man-management skills you’ve got to have in the modern game. Modern day players are different, their expectation levels are different. Players expect preparation to be good, sessions to be planned and they’re expecting detail not only from the manager but from the management staff.”
It is safe to say things were different when, having finished his playing career aged 34, Hughton completed his first coaching sessions whilst still a player at Brentford. A move to Tottenham to work as Ossie Ardiles’s U21 coach quickly followed.
“For those that think the transition [from player to coach] is easy: it’s not. I was very fortunate to be guided in that first season by a very good coach [Pat Holland, Reserve Team coach] who taught me there had to be a thirst for knowledge, to look to find great examples [of coaches and sessions] and to put the work and effort in.”
The variety of roles Hughton has experienced during his footballing career has helped develop a wide perspective. Working alongside a plentiful list of managers during his long association with Tottenham, Hughton cites the tactical influence of Glenn Hoddle as significant.
More surprisingly, he also references the arrival of Swiss coach Christian Gross as another key moment.
“When Christian Gross came to Spurs it was perhaps a first insight into different training sessions and doing afternoon sessions.
"The way he would plan sessions would be methodical in every aspect. It was my insight into foreign approach.”
The FA Licensed Coaches Club conference was held at St.George’s Park on 1-4 December 2012. To join The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club click here.
The full interview with Norwich manager Chris Hughton will be published in April’s edition of The Boot Room, The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club magazine.
Issues 1-5 of The Boot Room are now available via iPad and Kindle.