Comment: Sacking Chris Hughton was ruthless but the right decision
There has been much said and written since Brighton & Hove Albion sacked Chris Hughton on Monday morning and time will tell if it was the right call.
The decision came as a surprise and was heavily criticised by several former players, pundits and journalists. It's easy to understand the backlash as it appears Hughton has been harshly treated to people looking in from the outside.
'Keeping Brighton in the Premier League in successive seasons and also reaching a FA Cup semi-final... Why have they sacked him?'
'What more do Brighton fans want?'
Those were the type of comments made on social media, television and radio.
Everybody knows Hughton is a thoroughly likable person and a top football manager. In four-and-a-half years at Brighton, he took them from Championship relegation candidates to the Premier League.
It was the last six months which cost Hughton his job. Horrendous league form in 2019 saw them almost sleepwalk into relegation and they only stayed up because there were three worse teams.
Maybe Albion exceeded expectations in the first half of the season. A return of 21 points from 15 games was arguably better than they could have hoped.
Yet, there weren't really any convincing wins apart from when they beat arch rivals Crystal Palace 3-1, playing with ten men for an hour.
The 3-2 victory over Manchester United was also well deserved but three 1-0 wins on the bounce against West Ham, Newcastle and Wolves were all games which could have gone the other way.
The 2-1 win at Huddersfield, comfortably the worst side in the league all season, came after the Terriers were reduced to ten men on 32 minutes.
The 1-0 win over Everton also could have gone either way but Albion sat on 25 points and 11 points clear of the relegation zone heading into the new year.
Just two more league wins followed, though, a late 1-0 victory at home to Huddersfield and away to Crystal Palace when Albion scored two stunning goals.
A run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup maybe glossed over the league form to an extent but even the trip to Wembley came about after beating a Bournemouth side filled with back-up players and victories over three Championships clubs - one in extra-time in a replay and another on penalties.
Brighton struggled to create chances in 2019 and defeats at home to Bournemouth, Southampton and Cardiff without scoring and also to Burnley no doubt had chairman Tony Bloom thinking about next season and if Hughton was the right man to take the club forward.
Albion have survived in the Premier League for two seasons and have ambitions to push higher up the table and, in time, compete for European qualification.
Would next season under Hughton have been drastically different to the last two years? Unlikely unless the board gave him significant funds to bring in new players.
Hughton did the best he could with the tools at his disposal to keep the club in the Premier League but Bloom, a professional gambler, believes someone else is the best bet to move the club on.
An Albion fan, Bloom will always have the club's best interests at heart which was why he felt he needed to make this decision now.
It's hard to turn around a downward spiral in the Premier League. If Brighton had started next season the way they finished this one, they'd have been relegation certainties by Christmas - just look at Huddersfield and Fulham this year.
That may still happen but Bloom feels bookies' favourite Graham Potter, or someone else, will be the best person to take Albion forward and make significant progress to become an established Premier League club.
Was the decision to part company with Hughton and the timing of it harsh? Yes, of course. But if that was the decision Bloom had decided was best for the club, what was the point in waiting another day, week or so?
With 11 points from 19 league games, Brighton had taken a backwards step over the past five months. Not all of that was Hughton's fault with the majority of last summer's signings not delivering as expected and then no new arrivals joining in January.
But tactics were increasingly questioned by fans and the poor performances, particularly at home, have led to Bloom ending Hughton's reign.
It's obviously a risk but it could be a gamble that pays off in the long run. It's hard to argue it's the wrong decision based on 2019 as a whole but only time will tell whether it was a good or bad call.
Brighton and Hughton will both quickly move on. The Seagulls will want their new manager to have as much time as possible to look at the squad - who he wants and who he doesn't - along with who he wants to bring in ahead of next season.
Hughton, meanwhile, will have no shortage of job offers and has already been strongly linked with the manager's job at Championship side West Brom.
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