Former Irish defender is keen to get back in the game soon
CHRIS Hughton has confirmed he would be open to a role in international management, but insists Stephen Kenny is the man to lead the Republic of Ireland into the next qualifying campaign.
FAI chiefs are set to meet imminently to make a decision on Kenny’s future, with the signs pointing to the manager being handed an extension to his current deal which ends next summer.
With a proud history as Ireland’s first black player and 53 caps on his record that included a starting role for Jack Charlton at the Euro ’88 finals, the former Newcastle United, Birmingham City, Norwich City and Brighton boss would be a leading contender to succeed Kenny.
Yet, in an exclusive interview, the 62-year-old, who has been out of the game since losing his job at Nottingham Forest in September, has backed Kenny to continue his progress with his Ireland team.
“There were some good signs for Ireland at the back end of the World Cup qualifying campaign, and it looks like Stephen will be backed to continue in the role by the FAI,” began Hughton.
“There seems to have been a fundamental shift in the way those in charge of the game in Ireland have looked at the role of the national team manager over the last couple of years. There is a real desire to develop young players and change the way the team play.
“It has been a tough ride for Stephen at times during his time as Ireland manager and, at the moment, he is coming out of it okay.
“He’s in a much better place now than he was a few months back and the FAI may well look at the way the team have played in recent matches and believe he is the man to bring the team forward over the next couple of years.
“The first target for any manager is success and if that isn’t possible immediately, the next thing you want to see is young players coming through and developing of a brand of football.
“It’s difficult for Ireland at the moment because we are lacking real quality in certain areas of the team, but Stephen has always come across as a very genuine fella in my dealings with him and I would love to see him doing well for Ireland because that’s what we all want.”
Hughton has stated previously that he was not enticed by the prospect of trying his management hand on the international stage, but that position has shifted.
While a return to club football would be his preference, leading a national team is now an option he would consider.
“International football is more appealing to me now than it was a few years back, but a return to club management would still be my first preference as I speak now,” he continues.
“I’ve always respected anyone who takes on an international role because it is a tough job. You have a few windows every year when you get the players and in eight days, there are two important matches.
“If you are the England, France or Germany manager, you have a chance to succeed and compete for big competitions, but being in charge of one of the smaller nations is more challenging.
“Also, the lack of time with players is a major problem for me at international level.
“What I have enjoyed about football management is the day-to-day involvement with players.
“And you also have the issue of the pool of players you are working with. You can’t control that at international level.
“So my first choice would be to return to a club and the day-to-day working with players as that is what I have enjoyed about the role, but the right international role might be interesting.”
Hughton’s eagerness to get back into the game is a passion shared by many who find themselves on the managerial treadmill he has been pounding.
It’s a gig where three defeats represent a crisis and any more than that almost certainly means a very public sacking.
Yet, even though he has suffered that fall from grace on numerous occasions, and was shocked by the manner of his exit after a successful stint at Brighton two years ago, Chris’s desire for more has not been dimmed.
“The situation I had at Nottingham Forest was tough to deal with on many levels and it knocks you when you step away from it, there’s no doubt about that,” he added.
“You can enjoy great highs in the job, but not every manager can win. That’s the reality of the job.
“The good days are fantastic, but the lows are hard to deal with and there is no doubt the job is tougher now.
“The ownership of football clubs is different compared to what it was when I started in management.
“You are getting business people owning football clubs and they treat football like they do their companies,” he adds.
“When they are not happy with someone in their business, they replace them.
“That’s what happens in football now and it means you are not given time to build anything.
“You need to win quickly because managers rarely come out of bad patches of results now.
“It’s not unexpected when we see a manager leaving his post at this stage. And as we have seen with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, the parting of the ways was inevitable before it happened.
“I’ve experienced that a few times now, but the one that surprised me was at Brighton,” Hughton admits.
“I didn’t see that one coming and it was a tough one because I loved my time at the club and didn’t want it to end.
“What we have to appreciate now is management has changed and we are very much following a European model in England now.
“Look at the CV of managers now. Most will have one year there, two years someone else, a year at the next club... winning is now essential and unless you do that quickly, you won’t get the time to put a long-term plan into place.
“Despite that, I would like to get back into the game because it is what I do.
“I love working with players, being on the training ground and the challenge the job presents. Once you have football in your blood, it never leaves you.”
There may still be time for Hughton to lead Ireland on the international stage, yet he wants his next posting to be somewhere that will give him the time he needs to develop a winning formula.
Finding that club, and an owner, willing to offer that challenge on a demanding football landscape will be no easy task.