Chris Hughton has been confirmed as the new manager of Birmingham City after impressing the club's owners with his vision and ambition. Hughton has been actively seeking a return to football management since he was surprisingly axed by Newcastle back in December. The 52-year-old takes over from Alex McLeish who both shocked and angered the club by quitting out of the blue 11 days ago. The Scot has since made an extremely controversial move to Birmingham's fierce rivals Aston Villa, a switch that has infuriated many Birmingham and Villa supporters.
Birmingham have been eager to quickly appoint a new manager since McLeish's surprise departure on 12th June, and at one point there were at least six managers in the mix for the vacancy. That number was narrowed down to just two last week when the club held talks with Hughton and the former West Brom manager Roberto Di Matteo. Birmingham's owner, Carson Yeung, was swayed towards Hughton as he was reportedly impressed by the former Tottenham Hotspur player's vision, commitment to youth development and insistence of employing attractive and effective football, something that was rarely displayed during McLeish's spell in charge.
Hughton was appointed first team coach at Newcastle at the start of 2008. Just six months later he was named as caretaker manager of the Magpies for a couple of games following the departure of Kevin Keegan. In February 2009 Hughton stepped up again and briefly took charge after the club's then manager Joe Kinnear suffered a heart problem. Following the club's relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2008/09 Hughton started the new season in charge as caretaker manager and got the club off to a decent start, reflected in his manager of the month awards for August, September and November. Newcastle's owner Mike Ashley was obviously impressed and decided to appoint Hughton on a permanent basis. The decision proved to be correct as Hughton successful led the toon to the Championship title in 2010 after only one season in the division. Then, in December 2010 Hughton was surprisingly sacked by Newcastle in a move that perplexed both supporters and players alike as the club were riding high in eighth in the Premier League.
Hughton will be expected to achieve similar results with new club Birmingham next season as they seek an instant return to the Premier League following their relegation to the Championship on the final day of last season. Birmingham are among the favourites to win the Championship next season, and Paddy Power have them available at 9/1 to win the league and 9/4 to gain promotion. Hughton's first game in charge of the club will be away to Derby County, for which they are the 13/10 favourites to come away with a victory. Derby have been priced at 9/5 for the win, with a draw at 11/5.
Birmingham City 2011/12 Specials: