Money balls up at Brighton

Money balls up at Brighton

Football is a nasty business. Especially at the highest level of the game.

To quote Henry Winter writing in The Times: “The heart sank at the brutal bulletin from Brighton & Hove Albion that they have sacked manager, Chris Hughton, a decent man in a dirty trade.”

Winter went on to call the actions of the club “cowardly” and “perfidious” (deceitful and untrustworthy). I agree.

The sacking of Chris Hughton came as no surprise. Not even to me, and I stopped producing football programmes years ago. I knew Hughton was for the chop weeks ago and I live thousands of miles from Brighton

Victim of some rebellious players who did not agree with the tactics their manager asked them to deploy in order to avoid relegation. Victim of an owner who craves the ‘Moneyball’ mode of management.

Problem. Football is no longer about signing the best players and asking a coach to train them to win football games, a la Pep Guardiola. No. Too often now it is about statistics. The obsession with the Moneyball concept developed in the American sport of baseball is now spreading its tentacles throughout the English game of football, and not only at the richest level of the game.

With a squad largely fit for the Championship from which they were promoted two seasons ago, Chris Hughton managed to get Brighton to finish seventeenth in the Premier League this season. He also got them to an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

I would argue that the achievements of Chris Hughton at Brighton and Hove Albion football club have been immense. I’m not alone.

Dominic Fifield, football correspondent of The Guardian was spot on when he told Mike Calvin on the BT Sport Football Writers Podcast: “He has done the job he was employed to do. Firstly he saved them from relegation from the Championship. Then he got them promoted to the Premier League. Then he kept them there. I don’t know what else he could have done.

“Given the recruitment mistakes that have clearly been made at that club, most notably last summer when they spent an awful lot of money on players that have not come off, that’s not the fault of Chris Hughton. It’s nothing to do with him. That’s the recruitment department that have let him down badly.”

Well said. So much has been written about what a nice guy Hughton is. I concur. He is. But that is in danger of obscuring what a good job he has done with the Seagulls.

chris hughton final match at brighton

Two managers. Final day of the season. Differing fortunes.

Mark Langdon, football correspondent of the Racing Post knew before Hughton who Brighton were lining up to replace him come the end of the season. He has a different opinion.

I don’t agree with Langdon when he writes: “Cardiff gave the relegation dogfight a proper go but Brighton were just hoping their rivals would not be good enough and that’s no way for a club to aim for relative long-term success.”

Nonsense. Would Cardiff fans like to swap league places with their opposite numbers at Brighton? Of course they would.

Tony Bloom is the Chairman of Brighton and Hove Albion. Outside of the club he runs a business that sells data to high-rolling, professional gamblers who pay Bloom for stats to help them bet better. Tony Bloom also spearheads one of the largest gambling syndicates in all of Europe.

For a man who says he also uses those stats to recruit players to play at Brighton, I’d suggest it is those stats that have let him down. How many players in the Brighton squad today are of better quality than those who got the side promoted from the Championship? How many are nowhere near as good as they think they are? How many are past their best before date?

My view is that Tony Bloom  should be ashamed of himself. Not only for sacking Chris Hughton. More so for ensuring that Hughton was the last to know.

Investing £250 million pounds of his own money allows him to make the decisions he cares to make. He’s worth billions and he’ll have to invest much more money than he offered Hughton if the new manager is to establish Brighton in the top half of the table.

Brighton fans were not happy with the lack of goals, the absence of entertaining play, the defensive approach Hughton employed in order to ensure Brighton scraped together enough points to avoid relegation. The players and fans thought caution should have been thrown to the wind. They were wrong.

Chris Hughton was right to do what he did. Mission accomplished. The end justified the means. It’s just a pity that getting the job done brought about his end.

The supporters who wanted change had better hope they have not shot themselves in the foot. Going back years, the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic suffered because of unrealistic expectations on the terraces and in the boardroom. Both clubs dropped out of the top flight. This past season you only have to look at the demise of Ipswich Town to witness how a football club can be wrong to give in when fans demand the sacking of a manager who had long kept them in the Championship. Ipswich begin next season in League 1.

graham potter to leave swansea for brighton

Graham Potter, The bookies favourite to take over at Brighton.

Chris Hughton was hopelessly undermined by his bosses. People associated with the game knew Brighton had approached Graham Potter while Hughton was spending every day trying to keep the Seagulls afloat.

Graham Potter is being formally interviewed for the vacancy at Brighton today, Tuesday. The compensation paid to cash strapped Swansea will not be vast. As was the case for Hughton at Brighton, Potter has done well working with limited funds.

The man who spearheaded the search for a new coach – while Chris Hughton was busy keeping Brighton in the Premier League – is Dan Ashworth. The man appointed as technical director at Brighton following his spells at Peterborough, Cambridge, West Brom and as the immodestly titled ‘Director of Elite Development’ for the Football Association. Ashworth is, we are told, interested in the DNA of a footballer. Save me from such babble.

Mark Langdon wrote in the Racing Post: “As one of the world’s most respected punters, Tony Bloom knows all about the potential risks and rewards involved in taking chances and sacking Hughton is a gamble worth taking.”

Time will tell on that one. Personally speaking, I’m now hoping it’s one gamble he loses.

tony bloom of brighton

Tony Bloom. Gambling with the Premier League future of Brighton


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