Chris Hughton could be the next Premier League manager to lose his job, but Norwich City may have left it too late to make a change.
The former Birmingham City and Newcastle United boss was appointed as Paul Lambert’s successor in the summer of 2012, and led the Canaries to a respectable 11th place finish in his debut campaign. Hughton appeared to have done some smart business during the summer, with the likes of Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Gary Hooper, Nathan Redmond and Leroy Foy all signed as the club looked to make further progress this term.
However, it has been a hugely disappointing campaign for the Canaries, who are currently in 16th position and just two points above the relegation zone. Yet such is the competitiveness of the division, they are also three points from a top-ten finish which, should they achieve this, would be their highest placing since the first ever Premier League season back in 1992-93, when they finished third having threatened to win the title at one point.
But it would take a significant increase in performance if they are to climb out of relegation danger, let alone aim for a top-half finish. Norwich have won just one of their last 11 matches in the Premier League, and chief executive David McNally has pulled no punches when stating that, ultimately, the responsibility for results is down to Hughton.
“Chris is the first to accept the buck stops with him,” he told EPD24 over the weekend. “He has been told in no uncertain terms to get us out of the current position and get our club moving up the football table and quickly. As far as giving any certainty in terms of Chris and his position here all I would say is it is a results business. It would be wrong to give any further guarantees. We would be delinquent almost to do that.”
Given these comments, and McNally’s later admission that he and the board have already considered potential replacements, it is little surprise that Hughton has emerged as the new favourite with the bookmakers to be the next Premier League manager shown the door. According to oddschecker.com, the most likely to succeed the 55-year-old include former player Malky Mackay, who was controversially sacked by Cardiff City earlier this season, current Celtic coach Neil Lennon, and Italian legend Gianfranco Zola.
Yet with just 12 matches of the season remaining, have Norwich left it too late to be thinking about a change of manager? Whoever would succeed Hughton would likely want to bring in his own backroom staff, and would have little time to implement any of his own ideas and training methods. And the fact the Canaries have possibly the most difficult of run-ins amongst those fighting for survival, it could be a risk too far.
On Sunday, Tottenham Hotspur arrive at Carrow Road, as they look to maintain their push for a place in the UEFA Champions League. If that isn’t difficult enough, the East Anglia club end their campaign with a visit from Liverpool, before travelling to both Manchester United and Chelsea, and then on the final day of the season, they welcome Arsenal.
Before those four fixtures, they will be looking at the seven prior matches as the make-or-break period of their season. These involve trips to Aston Villa, Southampton, Swansea City and Fulham, and home games against Stoke City, Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion. On paper, they would fancy their chances of collecting enough points from that lot, yet at the same time, their opponents are unlikely to be daunted by facing a team as out of form as Norwich, regardless of whether it is Chris Hughton in the dugout or someone else.