Why Sheffield Wednesday should go all out for Chris Hughton

Gabriel Sutton by Gabriel Sutton / 15 July 2019, 14:53

Steve Bruce has left his post as manager of Sheffield Wednesday, and is now set to take over at Newcastle United.

It would be easy to understand why some Owls fans might not be overly happy with his decision or the timing of it.

At a time when Bruce had faced a lot of scrutiny at Aston Villa, the club made him feel wanted; they were prepared to allow him to finish his holiday mid-season at a difficult time for personal reasons and fans gave him a lot of support when he came in.

Equally, though, it is easy to understand why Bruce took the job.

Newcastle are his boyhood club, he might have dreamt of managing them some day and, at 58, this was likely to be his last opportunity to do so.

Either way, Wednesday need a new manager – and we think Chris Hughton is the man for the job.

Here’s why...

Track record

Hughton’s track record at Championship level is second to none.

The former Tottenham full-back led Newcastle to the title in 2009-10, then he took Birmingham to fourth the following season alongside impressive Europa League and FA Cup campaigns.

Hughton took over Brighton midway through 2014-15 when they were struggling one place above the relegation zone, and guided them to promotion contention the following season – they lost the Play-Off Semi-Final to Sheffield Wednesday before winning automatic promotion in 2016-17.

In each of the wily campaigner’s four full seasons as a manager at this level, his team have achieved a top six finish; and on two of those occasions, they finished in the top two.

One of the reasons Wednesday appointed Bruce was because of his proven record at this level; Hughton is at least equally reliable in the second-tier.

Off-field structure

A lot of Championship clubs are moving towards a continental structure, in which the head coach focuses on on-field matters while the general running of the club is left to a Director of Football.

It is difficult to predict how smoothly Hughton might fit into that type of model – at least in comparison with newly-appointed tracksuit coaches like Jonathan Woodgate, Steve Cooper and Pep Clotet – and that question mark could hinder his chances of getting other jobs at this level.

However, Sheffield Wednesday do not have a proven scouting setup in place; although Dejphon Chansiri should be credited for investing a lot of money into the club, he has not compiled a coherent plan for progression – thus the manager has to take more responsibility.

Head of Recruitment David Downes and Recruitment Analyst Dean Hughes were both brought in by Bruce; they have not yet had a full summer to prove themselves and we do not know how good they are, or how the dynamics of their work might alter now the manager has changed.

If we think of Wednesday’s best players – Barry Bannan, Sam Hutchinson, Keiren Westwood and Fernando Forestieri – they were all signed before the summer of 2016.

Although this is partly because the club operated with a transfer ban last summer, it also shows how much they have struggled to significantly improve the squad over the last three years.

With just three weeks to go until the opening day trip to Reading, the club cannot drastically alter its internal structure – for this season, therefore, they need a manager who can take a step back and oversee the work the club is doing, rather than just zoom in on details on the training ground.


Under Bruce, Sheffield Wednesday’s style of play was direct with intent.

We saw early balls into Steven Fletcher, then the likes of Forestieri and Reach fed on the Scot’s knockdowns or Bannan would have more space to dictate terms, allowing Rolando Aarons to provide pace and width.

It proved relatively successful: since Bruce’s regime began under Stephen Clemence and Steve Agnew on 2nd January, the Owls picked up 32 points from 20 games – the sixth-best record in the Championship.

It might have helped that key ball-winner Hutchinson returned from injury shortly before then – and Lee Bullen had galvanized the club in his prior interim period – but the improvement was noticeable, especially from a defensive perspective.

Clearly, little in terms of the style of play needs changing and Hughton used a similar template to guide Brighton to promotion.

He, too, operated with a target man in Tomer Hemed, he favoured strong characters and built a hardworking outfit, whilst also getting the best out of one mercurial jewel in Anthony Knockaert, a similar type of talent to Forestieri despite playing in a different position.

If any of the realistic candidates can make Wednesday competitive again, it’s Hughton.

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Graham Westley
Graham Westley
16th February
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