London (AFP) – Brighton sacked manager Chris Hughton on Monday in what chairman Tony Bloom described as “one of the most difficult decisions” he had ever had to make.
Hughton leaves despite guiding Brighton to the FA Cup semi-finals and retaining their Premier League status for a second successive season.
The decision may well have come as a shock to 60-year-old Hughton, who had spoken of his desire for players to bounce back from the final day 4-1 defeat by Manchester City on Sunday and other disappointing spells during the campaign.
However, the slump in their league form in the latter part of the season — which saw Watford sucked into a relegation battle — forced Bloom’s hand.
“Undoubtedly, this has been one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make as chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion, but ultimately one I have made due to how we struggled in the second half of the season,” said Bloom in a club statement.
“Our run of three wins from 23 Premier League matches put our status at significant risk.
“It is with that in mind, and the performances during that period, that I now feel it’s the right time for a change.”
Hughton — who had previously managed among others Newcastle, Norwich and Birmingham — replaced Sami Hyypia in December 2014, with Brighton just above the Championship relegation zone.
After defeat in the play-off semi-finals in 2016, the former Tottenham and Republic of Ireland defender led Brighton to promotion the following season with a second-placed finish.
“Chris has done an excellent job over the past four-and-a-half years,” said Bloom.
“First stabilising our club, reaching the play-offs in his first full season, securing our first-ever promotion to the Premier League, and retaining our status in two successive seasons.
“Chris will always be very fondly remembered by Albion staff and fans as one of our club’s finest and most-respected managers.”