Brighton EXCLUSIVE: Club chief explains why Chris Hughton was sacked and replaced by Swansea boss Graham Potter

21 May

Brighton and Hove Albion chief executive Paul Barber has been forced to explain why the club sacked popular boss Chris Hughton and replaced him with the comparably inexperienced Graham Potter.

The Seagulls axed Hughton last week, despite keeping the club in the Premier League for another season.

And they confirmed Potter as his replacement on Monday, with the 44-year-old leaving Swansea – who finished tenth in the Championship this term – to take over at the Amex.

But Ian Holloway, alongside Jim White in the talkSPORT studio on Tuesday, admitted he was left baffled by the decision and demanded Barber explain why Hughton had been given the boot.

And the Seagulls CEO launched a passionate defence of the club’s move to appoint Englishman Potter – who enjoyed success in Sweden with Ostersund, where he won three promotions and led the minnows to glory in the Swedish Cup, as well a run to the Europa League knock-out stages.

Speaking on Tuesday, former QPR boss Holloway said: “I really don’t understand and I’d love to ask you this: Is it what Graham did abroad? Because his record at Swansea was not glittering – 21 wins, 19 defeats.

“Chris took over when you were in the relegation places, and not only did he get you up to the Premier League, he kept you up. So I’m asking, why couldn’t Chris move you forward?

“I just think you just needed a couple of different centre-forwards to help you.

“I don’t understand, can you please fill me in? I know you’ve all done a brilliant job, but it doesn’t make sense to me.”

Chris Hughton was sacked by Brighton just days after keeping the club in the Premier League – and Ian Holloway is not happy
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And Brighton CEO Barber replied: “Yes Ian, there were a couple of things that concerned us last season. We felt the performance levels the players were capable of were not there and we were struggling to reach the kind of performance levels we needed to not just survive in the Premier League, but to prosper.

“We felt that maybe a change of manager at his time would get more out of the squad we’ve got. We invested a lot of money last summer.

“When we looked at Graham and what he’d done… I think you need to put what he did at Swansea into context, Ian. He lost 16 members of his first team squad when they were relegated and the majority were what we would call ‘Premier League players’.

“Despite the squad being ripped apart, he not only managed to keep the club in the Championship, but he actually got them to tenth place within shooting distance of the play-offs.

“We felt that was a fabulous achievement.

“If you go back to what he did in Sweden, he took a club in the fourth tier in Swedish football all the way to the top tier, he then won the Swedish club and he got them into the Europa League and came up against some very, very tough sides.

“And all of this on the back of not just a good playing career – he calls it ‘unglittering’ – but we think 300 odd games at first team level is a pretty solid playing career.

“And then he did it the hard way. He got his education, he took a degree in social science and then took a masters degree in human intelligence, emotional intelligence – effectively psychology and leadership.

“He then worked his way through the coaching ranks at universities, then into women’s football and then onto Ostersund where he did an incredible job.

Swansea City news: Graham Potter expects to become Swans boss and reportedly says his goodbyes at Ostersunds
Potter guided Ostersund to an impressive last 32 finish in the 2017/18 Europa League – where they were knocked out by Arsenal
Getty

“He’s a young English coach, he’s educated, he’s articulate, he’s humble, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s got a good group of people around him and we feel he’s very, very good choice for us to take our club to the next stage.

“We want to improve year-on-year and we didn’t feel we improved last year or progressed in the way we hoped to. We simply want move forward now with a difference voice.”

Holloway added: “I hope Graham does well, Paul, but I’m saying you’ve got rid of a proven manager very harshly in my opinion. That’s what I’m saying.”

And Barber insisted the club did not take the decision to sack Hughton lightly.

“We understand Chris was hugely popular,” he continued, “not just here at this club but across football. That’s not going to change. He’ll always be welcome back here.

“Chris did a fabulous job for us. In four-and-a-half years he stabilised us in the Championship, got us to within a hair’s breadth of promotion in his first full season, and then promotion and two seasons in the Premier League.

Brighton chief executive Paul Barber has defended the club’s decision to sack Chris Hughton
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“So we owe a lot to Chris and he’ll probably go down as one of Brighton’s greatest ever managers. He will always be remembered here with a huge amount of respect and fondness.

“We’re already missing Chris and the impact he had here, but we feel Graham is the man to take us forward.

“We’re not naïve enough to think any kind of change he might want to make is going to happen overnight, he needs time, we need to be patient and we’re aware of that.

“He’s got a combination of interesting experience and great football qualities, but also he’s the kind of person I think would fit with our club.

“Chris fit in very well because of his personality, his dignity and humility, and Graham is of the same ilk, but obviously different in other ways.

“We’re really looking forward to working with him. We think we’ve got a very fine young English coach, who is excited about moving to this level of football and testing his own methods and ideas.”

Listen back to talkSPORT’s interview with Brighton CEO Paul Barber IN FULL above!