Chris Hughton: The Right Man at the Right Time for Nottingham Forest

Oct 8, 2020, 5:30 PM GMT+1
Hughton has been appointed Nottingham Forest boss | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Death, taxes and Chris Hughton being linked to a vacant managerial role in the Championship.

Well, the saga is over – for now at least. No longer shall the former Brighton boss’ name be tediously banded about as soon as a second-tier side goes three games without a win, with Hughton taking the reins at Nottingham Forest.

For fans of the former European champions it’s been a miserable couple of decades, languishing in the Championship since 2008 – the current longest run in England’s second tier – and not experiencing the bright lights of top-flight football since it was acceptable to employ Ron Atkinson (or '1999' for the kids).

However, Hughton’s track record of escaping the rigours of a 46-game campaign is as good as anyone’s and the mild-mannered tactician is exactly what a club like Forest need right now.

While we could sit and dispute what constitutes a ‘big club’ for hours on end, the fact of the matter is a club of Forest’s stature should not be embarking on their 22nd season outside of the Premier League. Of course, their omission from the top flight is baffling, however, what’s perhaps more mystifying is their inability to even threaten to re-join the top table of English football.

Minus the three years spent in League One between 2005-2008, the Reds have a pitiful three play-off semi-finals to show for their 18 years in the second tier, with the club finishing on the losing side in all of the aforementioned two-legged affairs.

Chris Hughton
Chris Hughton worked wonders at Brighton | Henry Browne/Getty Images

Having looked certainties for a play-off spot last season, Sabri Lamouchi’s side somehow managed to bottle it – picking up just three points from their final six games – with a 4-1 final day hammering at home to a poor Stoke City side seeing them miss out on goal difference, before four league games without a win at the start of the 2020/21 season spelt the end of Lamouchi’s tenure.

So with the Reds on a run of ten league games without a win why is Hughton the man to bring the good times back to the City Ground?

First of all he’s the perfect man to bring in when a team is beginning to ship goals. Forest were solid defensively last season, however, with star defender Matty Cash snapped up by Aston Villa they’re looked unusually suspect at the back with seven goals conceded in four games.

Secondly, Forest need to start scoring goals. Lewis Grabban and Joe Lolley were the only players to score more than five goals in all competitions last season, and one goal in their opening five games this season does little to suggest the floodgates are set to open.

Now, you’re probably sat there thinking why on earth Hughton is the man to solve a goalscoring crisis? However, while the former Newcastle boss’ pragmatic is both lauded and criticised at time, very few people give the 61-year-old credit when it comes to the attacking football his teams have produced in the past.

His Newcastle side scored an incredible 90 goals in 2009/10’s Championship campaign – 13 more than the free-flowing Leeds side so frequently praised of last season – while his Brighton side of 2016/17 boasted no fewer than four players who notched 12 or more for the season.

With a Anthony Knockaert rumoured to be on the club’s radar, if Hughton can entice the Fulham man to the City Ground and strike up the kind of relationship they developed at The Amex, then Forest’s problems in front goal are likely to become a thing of the past.

Finally there’s the club’s summer transfer business. It seems incredible that Lamouchi was afforded just four league games of the new season having brought in 13 players during the transfer window. 13!

The Reds' squad currently consists of around 30 senior members, though with time still remaining in the window, Hughton has the chance to offload players and bring in some of his own – Lamouchi’s departure may have seemed harsh and perhaps premature, however, if the club were intent on making a change, at least they’ve done it at a time when the new man has chance to begin to mould a squad of his own.

With four league defeats from four and one goal scored, automatic promotion is already looking like a long shot for Forest. However, in Hughton they have a tried and tested manager and you wouldn’t bet against them being in the mix come the end of the season.