Chris Hughton responds to key Nottingham Forest criticism with Reds rock bottom

By Sarah Clapson

Little more than three weeks from now, it will be a year since Chris Hughton took charge of Nottingham Forest.

Almost 12 months ago, he arrived looking to stop the slide after the Reds had lost their opening five games of the 2020/21 campaign with Sabri Lamouchi as manager - with that run coming on the back of the crushing blow of missing out on the play-offs the season before.

Fast forward in time, Forest find themselves trying to arrest a wretched run of form when they face Middlesbrough at the City Ground on Wednesday night, with Hughton under increasing pressure.

One of the accusations levelled at the former Brighton chief - aside from recent results - is a lack of progress made while he has been at the helm.

So what is his verdict?

“In some ways we have,” Hughton told NottinghamshireLive.

“I came into the club in a difficult period - and, also, a difficult season. We had a lot of good moments last year. We struggled to score the goals we needed, but we were able to put some good runs together of winning and not losing matches.

“Some of it does reflect back to me that if it was a season of having crowds - particularly with what we get at the City Ground - possibly it might have been a better season, with the type of momentum you would have got from the supporters.

“It’s difficult to talk about making progress. I think in some ways we have.

“Our CEO (Dane Murphy) spoke in the programme about the direction of the club and the work the club have done in the summer.

“It feels to me, at this moment, that there is still an awful lot of work to be done.

“As regards progress, in some fields with the work we do at the club, I think there has been some.

“But I am a manager that’s judged on performances and results on the pitch. And at this moment, it hasn’t been a good season.”

He added: “I have to say, I have thoroughly enjoyed being at, and working at, this football club.

“It has been different, because all of that period has been through the pandemic - and we still have some restrictions. But it’s been wonderful to get back to having crowds.

“Irrespective of how it’s gone - and maybe the reception I’ve got sometimes when things haven’t gone so well - I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being manager of this football club.

“It’s only when you’re here that you realise what a big and great football club this is. I’ve enjoyed it.

“This season has been difficult because we all want to do well. As a manager, those are things which affect you more than anything.”

The programme notes which Hughton alludes to saw Murphy concede it would take two or three windows to fully implement the club’s change in transfer philosophy.

A start was made with a focus on lowering the average age of the dressing room during the summer transfer window, as well as on cutting costs.

When it comes to registering results, though, patience is usually in notoriously short supply in football - and the Reds currently sit bottom of the Championship.

“What I am realistic about is, we are always judged on the now, because that’s what the supporters want. They want to see results. They want to see their team winning,” said Hughton.

“The manager is judged on results and performances.

“It’s about two things - one is about what you’re seeing on the football pitch, the other is about the club; the philosophy the club have and the route to go down, which will be to the benefit of this football club as we go into the future.

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“It’s trying to get the right balance between the two of them.

“It was a transfer window which saw us bring in, on average, a lot younger players.

“Because of the difficulties of the window, we had a percentage of them who came quite late on. I think that was more to do with how difficult this window was for everybody.

“On that side, yes, I think it takes time. But I’m very, very conscious of the game we’re in.”

Will he get time?

“In all honesty, I don’t think that way. I can’t afford to think that way,” he added.

“I’m putting a team together for every game to try to get a result.

“The margins haven’t been that big in all of the games we’ve played. It’s my responsibility to turn those margins our way. I can only think about the next game.

“I’m conscious we have a club and a support which wants to see us winning football matches.

“Tomorrow night is our next best opportunity. That is the only thing I can really think about.”

Forest have one point to their name after their opening six league games - the club’s worst start to a campaign for 108 years.

They desperately need to get out of a rut.

Asked if he is worried the season could descend into a relegation scrap, Hughton said: “It is very, very early in the season.

“That one, I don’t know, because I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in the next two or three games.

“If the results are positive in those two or three games, then it looks completely different. That’s the only thing we can focus on at the moment.

“I’m not taking anything away from where we are in the table at the moment. It’s a position we don’t want to be in, and it’s very uncomfortable.

“But the only thing we can do is work as hard as we can to turn these margins into our favour as quickly as possible.”


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