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To paraphrase Kipling for the purposes of a football article, 'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same...yours is the earth and everything that's in it, and which is more, you'll be a manager, my son.'
Ok, the line is 'man' and not 'manager' - but forgive me a little licence. When researching this piece in praise of Norwich manager Chris Hughton, lines from Kipling's 'If' just kept coming to mind. It's something to do with the former Republic of Ireland international's impressive air of calm; his dignified, controlled, quiet presence. And a lot to do with how he quietly demolished the notion that a good number two could never be a good number one when returning a Newcastle team in disarray to the Premier League, as well as how he took the incredible treachery of Mike Ashley so philosophically, how he becalmed a floundering Birmingham, and how he has turned Norwich City's unpromising start to the season on its head.
When the Canaries were thumped 4-1 at Stamford Bridge in the first week of October - just a week after conceding five at home to powder-puff Liverpool at Carrow Road - they were on a run of three straight defeats, having picked up a paltry three points from a possible 21.
Despite impressing last season under Paul Lambert, Norwich would have been many people's picks for the drop this term after the manager departed for Aston Villa. Limited resources, a limited playing staff - for all their honesty and hard work - and the fear of second season syndrome made the East Anglian side a testing position for whoever took over. And so it looked on October 6th as Norwich pulled dejectedly out of London.
But Hughton did not panic (as a player he seemed unflappable and he has carried that demeanour into management), he did not lose his head where others might and he clearly trusted his own judgement. And just like at Newcastle and at Birmingham, he turned things around. Since that defeat at Chelsea, Hughton has taken his side on a nine-match unbeaten league run that has seen them beat both Arsenal and leaders Manchester United, as well as Stoke, Sunderland and now Swansea - amassing an impressive 19 points from a possible 27. In that period, Norwich also knocked Spurs out of the League Cup, setting up this week's quarter-final tie, intriguingly, with Lambert's Villa.
Other managers have impressed this season in the Premier League - Steve Clarke, Michael Laudrup, Sam Allardyce to name a few - but Hughton is the stand-out performer for how he has overcome such an inauspicious start to the season. I think you get a better handle on how good a manager is or can be in how he deals with adversity and a run of poor results. A bad start at a new club (Norwich crashed to a 5-0 defeat at Fulham on the opening day of the season) with limited resources and where the previous manager was revered is as good a test of mettle as any.
But Chris Hughton has calmly and assuredly carried on the good work he did at Newcastle and Birmingham, proving that he is a manager of impressive qualities. No matter the capabilities of a man, he needs opportunities to show his strengths. Who knows what opportunities came Hughton's way in all those years as able lieutenant, but there's little doubt he's taken the three that pitched up in the last four years in a way that makes you wonder why he didn't get into management sooner.
Paul Little - he's on the Twitter.