Robbie Savage has heard and seen some ridiculous things in his time.
While playing for Leicester City, he was fined £10,000 by the FA for using the match official’s toilet due to a dodgy stomach. In 2003, he was smashed in the face by a referee while playing for Birmingham City. He’s even broken his nose on Strictly Come Dancing when attempting an ill-advised knee slide which resulted in him face planting the dance floor.
Then there was his first day as a Brighton and Hove Albion player. Savage had been brought in on-loan from Derby County by Micky Adams in the autumn of 2008 and when he arrived at the Albion’s former training ground at Sussex University, he was greeted by Bob Booker dressed as a woman and claiming to be a Savage-super fan. “She” asked Savage to sign a shirt, pose for photos and even asked if “she” could sit in his black Mercedes.
It says much then that Savage told listeners to BBC Five Live’s 606 phone-in on Saturday night that the suggestion that Brighton should get rid of Chris Hughton was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard in his life. Ben the Brighton fan had phoned up and questioned whether the bloke who has led the Albion from near-certainties for relegation to League One to 12th in the Premier League was the right man for the job.
Savage was right – sacking Hughton would be more ridiculous than a player getting smashed in the face by a referee and than someone breaking their nose on Strictly. Anybody who thinks that the Albion manager should be moved on at this stage in proceedings needs a serious reality check.
Most Brighton fans probably would want a more attacking brand of football, especially away from home. At times, it can be hard to find the motivation to spend hundreds of pounds to travel the length of the country when you know that you're going to see your team play with ten men behind the ball and have just a handful of shots on target – but that isn’t a reason to get rid of one of the club’s most successful managers of all time.
With Hughton, you know exactly what you are going to get. He is by nature a very conservative manager who will always prioritise picking up one point over taking a risk and going for all three. However frustrating that might be for us supporters, especially in games such as Southampton and Fulham this season when the opposition looked there for the taking, it is an eminently sensible approach when your brief is purely to keep a club in the Premier League.
At Everton on Saturday, we could’ve gone on the attack. But imagine what the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson, Richarlison and Theo Walcott could do if we’d poured forward and left pockets of space at the back for them to exploit. We saw with the Toffees' first goal how devastating they could be on the counter, when an Alireza Jahanbakhsh corner at one end turned into an Everton goal at the other inside of 20 seconds.
Both of Manchester City’s goals in our 2-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium came from devastating counter attacks after we’d given the ball away on the rare occasions the men in green dare to venture from their own half. Only somebody who has bet on over 7.5 goals would advocate going on the attack away from home against sides that good.
Brighton are a bottom half Premier League team in terms of budget and size. There are plenty of lessons from recent history about supporters who get ideas above their stations.
Southampton sacked Claude Puel due to fans pressure because he’d “only” taken them to an eighth placed finish and a League Cup final. The result of their desire for more attacking football was Mauricio Pellegrino nearly leading them to relegation the following season, a last day escape from the Championship and they look in a right mess again under Mark Hughes.
Mick McCarthy was booted out by Ipswich Town fans for finishing 12th last year and now they sit rooted to the bottom of the Championship. Hughton himself lost his job at Norwich City for not being attacking enough. The Canaries were outside the Premier League relegation zone when he was sacked, they ended the campaign relegated after three seasons in the top flight and have never really recovered on or off the pitch.
There will probably come a time in the future when Hughton is moved on – this is modern day football, after all. But it shouldn’t be now. His job is to keep Brighton in the Premier League and as Savage quite rightly pointed out, he is well on course to do that.
Only the most delusional of Brighton fans would think there is somebody out there who could do a better job in our current situation. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous – even more ridiculous than Bob Booker in a dress.
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