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Warren Hill

End of the season, time for the inquest...

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And that’s it. The season is over, everyone has played each other twice, all the results are in, relegation and European qualification is settled.

 

It’s time for the inquests to begin.

 

Tottenham will be wondering how a tally of 72 points wasn’t enough to get them to the top 4, they’ll be worrying that 72 points isn’t enough to keep Gareth Bale, they’ll be thinking that another Europa League campaign might scupper another assault on the seemingly impenetrable top 4.

 

Arsenal will, no, SHOULD be wondering when their luck will run out. But for the intervention of the Men in Black at the Emirates against us, surely their late drive to overhaul Spurs would have failed. However, I suspect that they’ll be too busy crowing at the Cockerel to care too much.

 

QPR will be wondering where the money went, Man United will just be wondering, Fergie and Scholes gone, Rooney wanting out, will their dynasty go the same way as Liverpools did post 1990?

 

But what about us?

 

Winning our last two fixtures has us finishing 11th with 44 points, top of the bottom half, higher than last season and a comfortable 8 points ahead of the trapdoor.

 

Happy with that, let’s move on. Or so you might think.

 

Instead, all sorts of stuff is being bandied around, from Hughton bowing to fan pressure to the players ignoring his instructions and just “doing their own thing” on the pitch.

 

I think most fans are just happy that the football has been more expansive and exciting in the last few weeks; we’ve been scoring goals and winning games. To be honest, I think most fans would have been happy with two dog awful 1-0 wins, instead we’ve scored 7 goals, seen Holt score 3 in 3 and Jonny Howson look like the player he did when he was being touted as a future Captain last season.

 

It has been a stark contrast to some of the games we’ve seen this season, but maybe not so different to some others, the two 4-3 results for instance.

 

The notion that Hughton has bowed to fan pressure doesn’t wash with me, he’s still gone with one up front, he hasn’t dropped Holt (off at Weight-Watchers or anywhere else), in fact he hasn’t changed the team all that much. It’s true that there is a huge disparity between the last two games and say, Stoke away, but is it really fair to compare the very best with the very worst? I guess it depends what you’re trying to prove. If you want to prove that there is a huge difference between Norwich City at their best and Norwich City at their worst, then yep, you’re spot on.

 

Then there is a suggestion that the players have taken a vigilante approach to the last two games. Sheriff Hughton being ignored while Grant rounds up the regulators and they go about it their way. If this is true, I’m in no doubt that Hughton should be relieved of his duties immediately, once you’ve lost ‘em, you won’t get ‘em back. But I’d also fine every member of the first team squad the maximum possible. They’re all paid professionals, Hughton is paid to pick, set up and manage the team, the team are paid to play to the best of their ability in the way asked of them by their boss.

 

Thankfully, this simply has to be hogwash. If they’d done this against West Brom, I can’t imagine that the manager, having been completely undermined, would then pick a largely unchanged side for the following game. Of course, I suppose he could have been afraid of the backlash had he “reverted to type” and just gone with it. Why didn’t the players do this earlier? If they believed that strongly that they were going to hold some form of mutiny, why did it take them so long? I suppose you could argue that it was only when relegation became a real possibility that it galvanised them to do so. I’m going to stop now before I convince myself that I saw Grant Holt on the grassy knoll and that Wes Hoolahan was holding the camera as Neil Armstrong took his small step for man.

 

Ok, I’m being flippant. Perhaps there was a full and frank discussion between the manager and senior players, perhaps concerns were voiced, perhaps even some things were taken on board and possibly even incorporated into a tactical approach. If that did happen then it shows the strength of the bonds in the dressing room, the levels of trust that exist between the players and the manager, the respect for each other that they have.

 

The bottom line is that whatever happened, Hughton has set the team up in the last 2 weeks. That so many that held him to account for our poor performances cannot credit him for our good ones is a sad indictment but is representative of Premier League football. Indeed, one misguided WBA fan tweeted at half time on Sunday that his team were a disgrace and that he wouldn’t be renewing his ticket. That’s right, the same WBA who finished in the top 8 and obtained their best ever Premier League points total, Christ, they didn’t even lose Sunday!!

 

Let’s hope he copes next season, if they don’t have Lukaku I can’t see them replicating their achievements this season and you don’t find a loan player like him too often.

 

And so back to us. An 11th placed finish, or Champions of the bottom half as I like to see it. An improved squad with assurances from the board that the additional prize money obtained will be going into the player budget, Garrido and RVW already secured, these are exciting times. Chris Hughton has just guided us to our highest final league position for 20 years, guided us to safety and ensured a debt-free position. He’s already broken our transfer record on a striker in preparation for next season, he’s also guided us to a higher finishing position than our former manager could achieve with his “grass is greener big club” or us.

Lambert probably will get it right, he’s too good not to, but would you honestly back them to finish above us next year?

 

I bet plenty would, two weeks ago there were plenty bleating about how they were comfortably better than us, that comfort was never reflected in the league table but then, when is that ever used as a measure of how good a team is?

 

My final thought for this season is reserved for Jonny Howson. A few short months ago, I criticised the manager for playing him, he was struggling, passing was woeful, just the odd burst out of defence reminding us of his of the promise from the back end of the previous season. The last few weeks though he has rediscovered that verve and swagger, looking every bit the player he did back then. It’s been a pleasure to watch him and his two Goal of the Season contenders, well, I’m sure we all hope he can carry that forward to next season!!

 

God I hope it’s not Fulham (a) first up….

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 

 

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[quote user="Warren Hill"]Chris Hughton has just guided us to our highest final league position for 20 years, guided us to safety and ensured a debt-free position. He’s already broken our transfer record on a striker in preparation for next season.......[/quote]But isn''t he on trial for the first ten games?

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The difference in the last 2 games is that we''ve held a bit higher defensive line, allowed the full backs forward on occasion, pressed and harried the opposition at every opportunity and attacked quickly without any messing around which is exactly what I''ve been wanting to see all season.

That''s how we played last season, it''s a myth that we were gung ho, we just conceded a lot of goals because of our poor defenders. This is the BALANCED approach that suits our team gets goals and now with our quality defensive personnel will keep a lot more out than we did in Lamberts season.

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[quote user="lappinitup"][quote user="Warren Hill"]Chris Hughton has just guided us to our highest final league position for 20 years, guided us to safety and ensured a debt-free position. He’s already broken our transfer record on a striker in preparation for next season.......[/quote]

But isn''t he on trial for the first ten games?
[/quote]

 

I suppose as a manager you are always on trial Lapp, but as with all trials the final outcome is sometimes as dependent on the presiding Judge as the evidence presented.

 

 

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The difference is that we generally have better players than last season, thanks to CH, and that when they play with confidence they really can beat anyone. It''s all very well to say that WBA and Citeh were already on the beach, but they are professional footballers who do not want to get beaten - witness Sunderland and Newcastle putting up equally decent displays against quality opposition.

The big difference for me was Hoolahan and Howson in the same team and going forward - that sacrificed Tettey and heaped pressure on Johnson and the full backs, who had to fill the gaps which they did extremely well, and forced us to play a higher defensive line. Crucial to that was the return of John Ruddy, who dominates his area much more than Bunn (though Bunn is, I think, a better shot stopper). We were caught out tactically by Rodwell''s second goal yesterday, but apart from that gave away almost no chances in 180 minutes of football.

However, if we played that system every week we would get hammered by smarter and better players, especially away from home - can you imagine how much room and time Suarez would conjure against us? We have to stay flexible and make sure we can tighten things up when necessary - which is why CH is a better manager than PL, who doesn''t know how to tighten things up.

If we can get a couple of top quality signings in this summer, and that really is all we need, I can see us doing a West Brom next year, hopefully without fading at the end like they have.

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I must admit, despite my placing always being in the ''Hughton in'' camp, I did say that he would be ''on trial'' for the first dozen or so games.

In a way, that still stands, as it does for every manager. If we lost the first 12 or something nearly as bad, Hughton would be gone, but that applies to any manager in the league, even Wenger, even Moyes.

If we''re on say 8 after 12 with no wins, then what do we do?

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I''m not sure an inquest is necessary, that said, enjoyed the OP. From what I can see CH had a much better first season with us than SAF had at Manchester United all those years ago, and bettered our league position......I for one NEVER DOUBTED him, he came to us with a very good record and reputation and this remains firm......oh, and he has a better management career win ratio than Paul Lambert. 

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Wonderful post Warren Hill [Y]

 

Unfortunately, most of the HOBNOB''s are still plying their trade (for anyone who is prepared to listen) in one final desparate death rattle!

 

I think in some quarters CH was damned if he did and damned if he didn''t - all because his name wasn''t "you know who"! And before those apologists put their heads above the parapet, they are the ones quoting "the free flowing football" we are used to. (Perhaps they could show us where this brand of flowing football was so prevalent before "you know who''s" tenure!)

 

What the board and management of this club has done is amazing, and the only people knocking it are people purporting to be supporters. I think we are incredibly fortunate - we have passionate and thoroughly decent owners, highly respected and financially astute Chairman and CEO and a manager who epitomises all that is good in football management - and a gentleman to boot. How people cannot see and embrace this wonderful blend of characters is beyond comprehension. And, on top of that, our football supporters are second to none! From the support the under 18''s got home and away to through to the final game of the season - there was only one group of supporters you could hear at Manchester on Sunday, and they were singing On The Ball City! 

 

For those supporters who are wanting "more" - I would be interested in seeing what they define as "more". Having a Sheikh Mansour type owner (who seems to ignore fans wishes)? Having a Harry Redknapp type manager (who seems to blame everyone else for the team not being good enough)? There is an old adage "Be careful what you wish for - it may come true"! Considering the consequences of such activities leaves me in a cold sweat! (Wolves anyone?!)

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I have never been in the Hughton out camp, but he tested me during the run of results in march and april! I agree with much of what the OP says, Rome wasn''t built in one day. I just hope he''s learnt a lot from the last few games. With what has been said post game though,do you think there will be more than 3 signings?

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Some home truths coming out here. Part of the problem is that some of us only remember the good things about last year, while ignoring the 0-4 loss at home to MK Dons, for example, or the run of 3 losses where City scored 1 goal and conceded 11. So now the theory behind the last two wins is that the players have revolted against CH''s ''shackles'' (and by saying so confirm that these actually existed) or that the Board ''jumped'' on CH to make him change his tactics (and the proof is shown by the tactics changing. Except they didn''t, it''s just that the players executed them more efficiently and played with more confidence. The signs of improvement began against Swansea, but it''s far better to make something up and then pass it off as a rumour.

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[quote user="lappinitup"][quote user="Warren Hill"]Chris Hughton has just guided us to our highest final league position for 20 years, guided us to safety and ensured a debt-free position. He’s already broken our transfer record on a striker in preparation for next season.......[/quote]

But isn''t he on trial for the first ten games?
[/quote]

Has anybody seen CUSDP since yesterday ? [:P]

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quote user="Asdfghjkl;''#"]The difference in the last 2 games is that we''ve held a bit higher defensive line, allowed the full backs forward on occasion, pressed and harried the opposition at every opportunity and attacked quickly without any messing around which is exactly what I''ve been wanting to see all season.

That''s how we played last season, it''s a myth that we were gung ho, we just conceded a lot of goals because of our poor defenders. This is the BALANCED approach that suits our team gets goals and now with our quality defensive personnel will keep a lot more out than we did in Lamberts season.[/quote

So are you saying, that last season, we had poor defenders, now we have quality defensive personnel?

Also that last season we were unbalanced, yet all this is what you have been wanting all this season?

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