At the start of the season, there were three stand-out candidates for relegation. Huddersfield, currently in 14th place and three points clear of the bottom three, were 8/11. 7th placed Burnley were 7/5 and Brighton, currently in 12th having beaten Swansea 4-1 last weekend, were 13/8.
Almost every pre-season prediction had Brighton in the bottom three. After all, they were facing into their first ever season in the Premier League. They scraped automatic promotion on the final day of the season. They recently broke their transfer fee with a comically small record-signing of José Izquierdo for £13 million.
Credit must go to the man at the helm. Chris Hughton. As Frank Lampard said on Saturday night, the way he comes across is immensely endearing.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) February 24, 2018
Hughton is roundly recognised as a gentleman within football. Often times, it is seen as a slight. As if this fundamental trait is a hindering lack of ruthlessness to succeed at the top level.
This criticism is, of course, demonstrably nonsense. Hughton is a man who grew up in an era of where racism was commonplace. He had to endure heinous insults from his childhood onwards. He is a man who rejected his first professional contract in order to complete a trade, as was his parent's desire. Thus the current Premier League boss is also a qualified lift engineer.
Chris Hughton doing an extraordinary job at Brighton. Summed up today by a convincing performance against in-form Swansea.
— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) February 24, 2018
Hughton was the second ever black player to play for Tottenham and the first ever to play for the Republic of Ireland. The idea that he is a man unable to deal with the more unpleasant aspects of the game seems laughable when he consider his journey to the job.
He is a man who has had to overcome adversity in his career as a manager too. Four months after getting Newcastle United promoted back into the Premier League, with the club comfortable in tenth position, Hughton was sacked. Mike Ashley later admitted this was a mistake although it is hard to imagine if this provides much comfort.
The cult of hailing 'the underappreciated figure in the Premier League' has become so reductive that constant platitudes of how 'x is the most underappreciated figure in the league' has ensured the tables quickly turn and they become, in fact, overrated. The James Milner effect.
It will suffice to simply recognise Chris Hughton as a good manager, who conducts himself in a praiseworthy way. In a season defined by managerial outcries and misbehavior, he has veered away from the bright lights and persevered in his own style. Honorably, sensibly, quietly.
Chris Hughton waited in the tunnel for every single Coventry player to finish thanking their own fans so he could individually shake their hands.
Brighton have a good manager. But above all else, they have a classy manager. #bhafc
— Chris Wise (@chriswisey) February 17, 2018
In an indeal world, you would not have to praise a manager for conducting himself like Hughton. But our current sphere is from ideal and his is stand-out practice. A testament to perseverance. Above all, Chris Hughton represents a victory for the nice guy.