The era of the galactico manager is here: the egos and the complicated philosophies, the mind games and coded messages, the sniping and arrogant post-match interviews all adding to the spectacle and feeding into the all-pervasive world of the Premier League.
Football’s equivalent to the Queens of the Stone Age, Antonio Conte at Chelsea, Liverpool’s Jurgen
Klopp and the big-hitters in Manchester – Pep Guardiola at City and United’s Jose Mourinho – topped
the charts across Europe before coming to the Premier League to conquer new territory and renew
personal rivalries forged around the continent over the previous decade.
Throw in the completely farcical soap opera that is Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, and the ‘will he stay
or will he walk’ saga that trundles on and on with Rafa Benitez at Newcastle United and it’s easy to
see why the narrative around every weekend is dominated by at least one or more of the above.
Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe and Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton are two of the quiet
men of English football and represent an antithesis to the over-the-top hype. Both stand as
significant figures in their respective clubs’ histories and it is not outlandish to suggest that in terms
of resources over the past two seasons, both have performed just as well as any manager currently
working in the Premier League.
On Friday night The Seagulls make the short journey along the south coast to take on Bournemouth
at the Vitality Stadium. The two clubs have made contrasting starts to the season, with the Cherries
suffering four consecutive defeats leaving them bottom of the table while the visitors have made a
solid start to life back in the top flight following a 34-year wait with four points from their opening quartet of games.
The last time these sides faced each other in 2015 Howe was on the brink of securing promotion to
the top division for the first time in the Dorset club’s 118-year history while Hughton was just four
months into the job at the Amex Stadium and guiding Brighton to safety after taking over from Sami
Hyypia with the club just one place above the Championship relegation zone.
Despite the difficult start to this campaign, 39-year-old Howe, who had to quit playing at 29 due to
injury, has managed to keep Bournemouth comfortably in the Premier League playing an attractive
brand of football with many of the players that gained promotion from the second tier.
It’s a far cry from 2009 when the then youth team coach was foisted into the managerial chair with
the club close to going out of business and seven points adrift of safety in League Two. Eighteen
months later, while still under a transfer embargo, Bournemouth were back in League One before
Howe sought a new challenge at Burnley. But after a tough 21 months in Lancashire, scarred by the
loss of his mother and uprooting a young family, Howe returned to the club he made over 250
appearances for in October 2012 to ultimately guide them to the promised land.
Hughton has sampled life as an elite level manager before with stints at Newcastle and Norwich City
and previously guided Birmingham City to the Championship play-offs. After clinching promotion
After clinching promotion with the Magpies in 2010 he was unceremoniously booted out by Mike Ashley barely four months into the club’s return to the Premier League despite sitting in eleventh place and suffered a similar fate at Norwich City in 2014 when he was sacked with his side five points clear of the relegation zone with five games remaining.
The former Republic of Ireland international was not out of work long, however, as Brighton
chairman Tony Bloom recognised the management and coaching credentials of the softly spoken
After reaching the play-offs in his first full season in charge, Hughton ended Brighton’s 34-year wait
for a return to the top flight by gaining automatic promotion last season and while his brand of
football can be pragmatic rather than pretty, the 58-year-old remains one of the most
underestimated and underappreciated managers in the game.
But then, neither he or Howe will be all that bothered as they prefer to let the football do the talking.
Gary Anderson, Pundit Arena