Hughton: Pressure is all around
Published 04/04/2014 | 17:57
Manager Chris Hughton admits he can never switch off in the ongoing quest to keep Norwich in the Barclays Premier League again next season.
The Canaries host fellow survival battlers West Brom at Carrow Road on Saturday, once again looking over their shoulders with a six-point gap above the relegation zone after losing 3-0 at Swansea last weekend.
Hughton's position has been under scrutiny for most of the campaign, in which the Canaries have been largely inconsistent despite a £20million summer outlay.
The 55-year-old accepts there is no getting away from the 24/7 pressure-cooker environment of English top-flight football.
"When you are not here working, you are spending an equal amount of time thinking about the game, about decisions, about how you can do things better," said Hughton.
"It is the challenges of the games, sometimes you do wish you could switch off for a little while, but it is very difficult.
"You listen to everything around you, that is normal - when you have won at the weekend you will pick up the Sunday and the Monday papers, when you haven't, you will give them a wide berth.
"But there are these challenges and you have to be big enough to accept them, take the knocks on the chin and always look to improve."
Hughton, who took over from Paul Lambert in the summer of 2012, has been here before, with his side eventually pulling clear of trouble last season following three wins from the final five matches to finish 11th.
"It is very rare there is a manager not playing under any pressure, but of course you would prefer it if you were in a more comfortable position," he said.
"If you are in the position where we are, or at one of the clubs pushing for the European places, the pressure is on to get the results to finish in a certain position, while if you have been a mid-table club over the years, then there is the pressure to make sure you still are.
"But you have to always step up to the challenges, they are always there, sometimes there is criticism you have to be able to take and accept and then look forward to the next one, whatever that is."
Hughton is expecting his men to produce the required performance again at Carrow Road, where Norwich are unbeaten from six matches in 2014.
"These are the games where the players have to stand up and be counted, be strong and aggressive and to work to continue the home form we have," Hughton said.
"There is no doubt it is a big game for us."
West Brom boss Pepe Mel hopes the return of key defender Jonas Olsson can help the Baggies avoid last weekend's crazy finish.
When Thievy Bifouma put the hosts 3-2 ahead in injury time against Cardiff, it looked like West Brom had clinched a vital three points in their fight against relegation from the Barclays Premier League.
But there was still time for Mats Moller Daehli to equalise, and Saido Berahino's error in giving the ball away led to the dressing-room fracas with James Morrison that has dominated the build-up to the trip to Norwich.
Both Berahino and Morrison seem likely to be in the squad for Saturday's match along with Olsson, who sat out the Cardiff game as well as the 2-0 defeat by Hull a week earlier through suspension.
Mel said: "The biggest problem is that because we didn't have Olsson when we were winning against Cardiff we couldn't play with three centre-backs. We couldn't make that change. Now I will decide whether we play with three centre-backs against Norwich.
"For us, he's extremely important. He is a leader in the group and his contribution will be big this week."
Victory for the Baggies on Saturday would draw them level on points with Norwich, but the Canaries have lost just four of their 16 games at Carrow Road this season.
Mel said: "Norwich really do seem to be two different teams and we're going to be facing the better version. It's going to be a very difficult game but I would like to look at the league table at May 12."
As well as Olsson's return, Mel could also have striker Victor Anichebe, midfielder Claudio Yacob and full-back Billy Jones available after hamstring injuries.
That leaves only captain Chris Brunt as an absentee, and he could be back ahead of schedule from a knee problem against Tottenham next weekend.