Pitchside

Instability Six teeter on brink following Hughton sacking

Pitchside


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Norwich’s sacking of Chris Hughton with five matches remaining had all the hallmarks of a panic act.

The 1-0 home defeat to West Brom left the Canaries in 17th, five points clear of the drop zone after Fulham’s surprising 2-1 win at Aston Villa.

Fulham, who have now hauled themselves off the bottom of the Premier League, will be hugely boosted by the replacement of the respected Hughton with unknown, untested youth-team coach Neil Adams.

Felix Magath’s notorious training methods could take a back seat ahead of next Saturday’s clash at the Cottage: "You know that mountain I wanted you to climb, boys? Well forget about that, because today we will work on how to destroy Norwich - mwahahaha".

Norwich have removed Hughton because they know defeat to Fulham could well end their tenure in the top flight – their final four matches are Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. They could quite feasibly lose all those 4-0.

The Canaries’ risky decision does, however, complete an equation that goes some way to proving that stability is arguably one of the most important factors in avoiding relegation.

The bottom six teams have now all sacked their manager this campaign.

Swansea, 15th, bizarrely fired Michael Laudrup when they were relatively safe in mid-table, replacing him with a rookie player.

West Brom fired Steve Clarke and brought in Pepe Mel, who is famous for not really speaking English, and messing it up with Real Betis.

Fulham’s ownership change has seen all manner of unrest, although they seem to have finally got the right man, while the less said about Cardiff's shenanigans the better.

Bottom club Sunderland, meanwhile, may have got the right man in Gus Poyet, but the damage had already been done by the frankly lunatic decision to hire Paolo Di Canio in the first place.

You could increase that six to seven by including Crystal Palace, although Ian Holloway left of his own accord early in a season which was marred by a chaotic transfer window. But Tony Pulis is probably the safest pair of hands you could ask for, and Palace should stay up with relative comfort now.

When the fine margins are what separate mid-table from the abyss, it’s unsurprising that the little things are what count. Indeed, the same goes for the upper reaches of the table, as Manchester United and Tottenham have found out to their relative cost. They will likely miss out on Europe next season as a result.

Sometimes too much stability can be a bad thing, as grumbling Gooners will testify. But, particularly when fight is required, keeping things on a level can ultimately be the difference between success and total failure.

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