Overnight speculation that the Canaries were rapidly closing in on their No1 managerial target was duly confirmed this morning as dual statements from both St Andrew’s and Carrow Road moved the appointment of Chris Hughton ever closer.
Blues confirmed that they had, reluctantly, agreed to give their 53-year-old manager permission to speak to the Norfolk club whilst for their part, the Canaries acknowledged that they had now received the approval that they sought and talks with Hughton were now underway.
Everything, therefore, seems set fair for a swift appointment – fitting with the ’48 hour’ timetable suggested by City’s vice-chairman Michael Foulger yesterday.
The formal manner of today’s news would also suggest that proper protocol had been followed – avoiding the kind of expensive trip to the tribunal that followed Paul Lambert’s bitter exit from Colchester United in the summer of 2009.
The former Canary boss was due to be officially unveiled at Villa Park today; in the meantime, however, City had moved on without him and – unlike both West Bromwich Albion and Swansea City – had bagged their man early and, on the surface, with the minimum of fuss and performance.
“Birmingham City can confirm that Norwich City have made an approach for Chris Hughton with regards to their vacant managerial position. Hughton expressed a wish to speak to the Canaries and permission was reluctantly granted,” said Blues’ acting chairman Peter Pannu – thrust into the limelight as the club’s owner Carson Yeung continues to wrestle with the authorities in Hong Kong over various financial charges.
All of which may have helped City’s cause; Norwich are – as both chairman and chief executive have been at pains to stress – rather more financially sound than most. Prudence on the wages front can, it seems, still be matched with ambition on the apppointment front.
That 55% win ratio whilst boss at Newcastle United stood Hughton out from the crowd and having learned his craft playing football ‘the Tottenham way’, the former Republic of Ireland full-back should meet the demands of the Norwich purist.
Little surprise that Pannu was saddened by his impending departure; now, one presumes, less than 24 hours away.
“Chris is a great manager and deserves the opportunity to speak to Norwich, which is why we have granted him permission to speak to them,” he said.
From Carrow Road this morning came a simple statement confirming that the chase for Lambert’s successor was rapidly drawing to an accomplished close.
As with Lambert’s appointment, the board had identified their No1 candidate and – with relative surgical precision – gone out and got him. No lengthy courting or endless interviews for them; procsses which can invariably lead to the appointment of a ‘compromise candidate’.
Bang; job done; move on. Events of the last week will merely add to repute of City’s senior executive team. Chairman Alan Bowkett promised City supporters at the end of season dinner that ‘Plan B’ was in place should Lambert opt to fly the nest this summer.
It clearly wasn’t an idle boast.
“Norwich City can confirm that Birmingham City have granted the club permission to speak to Chris Hughton about the vacant managerial position at Carrow Road. The club will be making no further comment at this stage.”
All that appears to be left now is the invite to Carrow Road to meet the new manager.