CHRIS Hughton’s long-term plan is to manage the Republic of Ireland, which the 56-year-old London Irishman hopes to do once his stint with Brighton and Hove Albion ends.
Hughton joined Mick McCarthy as the only manager from the Republic of Ireland in the top two flights of English football last week when he was appointed Brighton’s manager on a three-and-a-half-year deal.
And the former Tottenham full-back got his reign off to a great start with an impressive 2-0 away win in the FA Cup over Championship promotion hopefuls Brentford. Next up is a trip to Charlton in the Championship this Saturday.
Confident of maintaining his excellent record in that division (Hughton previously guided Newcastle United to the Championship title and Birmingham City to the play-offs) the former Irish international full-back sees potential in his new club.
“We have the infrastructure in place to succeed, the training ground, the stadium,” he said. “We need to get out of the position we are in and we will aim to reach the play-offs if we can. The length of contract they have offered me is a strong indication that there is something here that can really develop and push this club forward.
“First and foremost, we have to put ourselves into a more comfortable position in the league. But there are ambitions for this club and it is about fulfilling them.”
His personal ambitions however extend beyond club football. Proud of his Irish roots — his mother, Christine Bourke, is from Limerick — his 53 caps for his country are as cherished as the two FA Cup and UEFA Cup medals he collected in his 13 years at Tottenham.
In a coaching capacity, he served as Brian Kerr’s number two during the Dubliner’s reign as Irish boss between 2003 and 2005 and Hughton has made it clear to friends that he would relish the opportunity to manage Ireland.
“It is a huge ambition of his,” said a source close to Hughton. “These things tend to be about timing, though. Right now he is employed and Ireland have a successful manager in place. Down the line, if a vacancy occurred while Chris was out of work then it’s obvious he would go for it.
“But at 56, the stop-start nature of international football would not appeal to someone with his work ethic. Time can change that, though. He is on a three-and-a-half-year deal and will be approaching 60 when that contract ends. That could be the time for Ireland.”