Chris Hughton is one of football’s most unassuming characters.
The 59-year-old Brighton & Hove Albion boss is level-headed, modest and is respected by all within the game.
He looks set to guide the Seagulls to their highest league finish in the club’s history and also has an FA Cup quarter-final tie on the horizon against Manchester United. The South Coast side last reached the sixth round in 1986.
Yet it wasn’t long ago that Brighton were on the floor. After successive failed play-off campaigns, the Seagulls were staring down the barrel of relegation to League One.
Sami Hyypia was sacked in December of 2014 with the club inside the relegation zone. Hughton came in and hit the ground running immediately, winning two of his first three games in charge.
He turned draws into wins and crucially made the Seagulls a tougher proposition defensively. From keeping four clean sheets in the league under Hyypia, they managed nine under Hughton.
That defensive solidity provided the basis for failed promotion push the following year and their eventual ascension to the Premier League a year later.
The addition of key forward players such as Tomer Hemed and Glenn Murray proved masterstrokes, while the form of centre-half Lewis Dunk has seen the 26-year-old tipped for England.
Hughton has been able to build year-on-year at the Amex. And that ambition shows no sign of slowing down.
Pascal Gross, Matthew Ryan and Davy Propper have all come through the door this season as the club aim towards the next level.
Jurgen Locadia, in particular, personifies the way in which Brighton are now viewed domestically and internationally. The 24-year-old has been a regular for PSV this season, yet opted to move to Albion in January.
That Brighton can attract a player of his quality is testament to the job that Hughton has overseen at the Amex.
There are more chapters yet to be written in the Seagulls’ fairytale. And with their Premier League status almost secure for another year, supporters should be able to forward to this weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final against Man United with an immense sense of pride.
Whatever the result, it’s been a magnificent season for Brighton and an incredible achievement for one of English football’s most underrated managers – Chris Hughton.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.