“ Chris was a very quick defender. He was solid defensively, but could also get forward and create opportunities for others. In essence he was the template for the modern day full-backs like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andy Robertson, Luke Shaw, Kyle Walker and Ben Chillwell. ” (former Spurs youth and reserve team player Andy Rollock)
Christopher William Gerard Hughton is without doubt one of the finest players to have ever played at full-back for Spurs. At his peak he was arguably one of the best left-backs in European football, and he was a left-back with a really good balance to his game. Someone who came up through the youth system at Spurs and into the first team, Hughton was such a consistent footballer for the club, and his association with them goes a lot further than the 398 competitive first team games that he played for them. A coach at youth, reserve and also first team level at Spurs for many, many years before embarking on his own career in management, the former Republic of Ireland international is a true Spurs legend. Born in Forest Gate, London, in the December of 1958, Chris Hughton attended St.Bonaventure’s Secondary School, and would later represent Newham Schools and also play football for a local side during his youth. It was during the 1970s that Hughton joined Spurs, as a junior player. He would sign amateur forms with the club, as he progressed through into the youth team set-up, because he was also doing an apprenticeship as a lift engineer. His brother Henry Hughton, would later join Leyton Orient, which was where he started his footballing career.
During his Spurs youth team days in the late 1970s, Hughton was part of some great Spurs youth sides. Sides which also included the likes of Paul Miller, Micky Hazard and Stuart Beavon. He played both as a winger and also as a full-back on occasions during his Spurs Youth team days, and he was a part of some cup successes, but he was unlucky not to have won the FA Youth Cup during the late 1970s with Spurs, as that team was so, so good. The then part-time professional would make a good number of appearances for the Spurs reserve side in the old Football Combination League. He even made his first team debut as a part-time professional, in a friendly with Swedish side IFK Gothenburg in late 1978, before signing professional forms with Spurs during the following year. The right footed left-back made his competitive debut for Spurs’ first team in a Football League Cup match against Manchester United in the August of 1979. 397 competitive matches and three major cup winning successes later, Chris Hughton would have enjoyed one of the finest Spurs careers’ of any defender in the clubs’ history.
The Londoner qualified for the Republic of Ireland through his Limerick born mother, Christine. The former Spurs player won an impressive 53 international caps for Ireland in an international career that started in 1979, and ended in 1991. He represented Ireland at UEFA Euro 1988, and also traveled with the squad to the 1990 FIFA World Cup. Hughton showed just how good he was as a footballer, adapting to an international team that played completely differently to Spurs, and yet the former Spurs player did so well for Ireland over the years. Perhaps one of his finest game in a green jersey, actually came in a 1-0 loss to The Netherlands at UEFA Euro 1988 (in a group game), when Chris had a fabulous defensive game against great players such as Ruud Gullit. Getting back to his Spurs days, the very consistent left-back who had great pace to his game, was always very determined in games. He was a really good defender, who did both sides of the game really well, but going forward he showed just why he was often selected as a winger during his youth team days at the club. He formed a great relationship with Spurs’ winger Tony Galvin during the early 1980s, under the tutelage of the great Keith Burkinshaw. And Hughton’s link-up play with Galvin on the left flank, was consistently so very good.
Strong in the challenge and classy on the ball, the full-back had a good eye for goal and he loved to get forward. From watching old Spurs matches that were played during the 1980s, you get to appreciate what a fabulous all-round player Chris was for Spurs, and also, how important he was to Keith Burkinshaw’s side of the early 1980s. Playing in both the first match and also the replay of the successful 1981 FA Cup final against Manchester City, the left-back would subsequently be part of the Spurs sides that won the 1982 FA Cup and the 1984 UEFA Cup, and he also started the 1981 FA Charity Shield game between Spurs and Aston Villa, which was shared that year. Of course the Spurs youth team graduate also started the 1987 FA Cup final against Coventry City, which Spurs unfortunately lost. Injuries affected Chris Hughton during the latter years of his time at Spurs, but he ended up staying at the club until late 1990, when he joined West Ham United on loan initially, before soon joining them on a free transfer. He left West Ham in the March of 1992, and would end his playing career with Brentford, helping them to win the Third Division during the 1991/92 season. Chris had to retire from the game because of injury in 1993.
Chris Hughton joined Spurs again, this time as head-coach of the new Spurs Under 21 side for the start of the 1993/94 season, although he would also work closely with reserve team manager Pat Holland during that season, his first as a coach. Hughton would then take charge of the Spurs reserve side for a good number of years, and he was very well respected by the reserve team players that he coached. Hughton would also lead Spurs’ reserve side to the 1994/95 Football Combination League title. The then promising young coach would later move up to the Spurs first team set-up, where he worked as an assistant manager to several Spurs managers (he was also caretaker manager of the club on a couple of occasions). The last Spurs manager that the former Spurs player worked with, was Martin Jol. Hughton has since gone on to have a very successful managerial career of his own, such as at Newcastle United, Norwich City and Brighton & Hove Albion. While not as a head-coach, his most recent role has been with the Ghana senior national team as a technical advisor. A gentleman of the game, from the many ex-Spurs players who played for the club at all levels that I’ve interviewed, so many who were at the club while Chris was there as a player and also as a coach, have told me what a great man Chris is.
So loved by the supporters of Spurs to this day, Chris Hughton has had a wonderful career both as a player, coach and as a manager, and I’m sure that he’ll continue to have a wonderful career as a manager. Chris is a true Spurs legend.
“ Chris Hughton was a great guy at Spurs, who had time for everyone and took an interest in everyone. I had a lot of respect for him, not just because he played for Ireland, but because of just how decent he was. ” (Former Spurs youth and reserve team player Darren Grogan on Chris Hughton as a coach)