Chris Hughton believes Birmingham City remain an attractive proposition for managers despite the off-field issues at St Andrew’s.
Hughton, who earlier this month ended his one-year tenure at Blues to return to the Premier League with Norwich City, has spoken fondly about the club that reintegrated him back into the professional game.
Hughton had been sacked by Newcastle and out of a job for six months when Birmingham appointed him Alex McLeish’s successor in June 2011.
And it proved to be one of the shrewdest pieces of recruitment the club have done in recent memory as Hughton masterminded a Europa League odyssey and a bold run to the promotion play-offs.
The 53-year-old did that despite having most of the previous season’s side broken up and sold on before the start of last season and losing other key players midway through the campaign.
He remains grateful for the faith Birmingham showed in him and optimistic that the chance to work for such a famous club will always be a draw in the game.
“I built a great rapport with people at the club. There’s a great group of players who couldn’t have given any more, some wonderful people and staff behind the scenes and, of course, the supporters were great to me personally.
“I’m desperate to see Birmingham do well – and I think they can.
“Birmingham has a good name and there will always be people very interested in the job. If you go to games throughout the country there’s always a good feel about Birmingham.
“Some things won’t change irrespective of the manager, players, owners – Birmingham will always have an attraction.”
Those sentiments come at a good time for Blues fans who are waiting to discover the identity of Hughton’s replacement.
Of the four man short-list drawn up by the club Alan Curbishley has ruled himself out, claiming that he wants to return to a top flight outfit.
That leaves former Huddersfield man Lee Clark as the front runner, with Roy Keane and Phil Brown also in the picture.
What is clear, though, is the necessity for the new man to be appointed as soon as possible given the many outstanding player issues that require attention.
West Brom are currently looking to secure the services of Ben Foster, whilst there has also been speculation about the future of England youngster Jack Butland.
On the plus side, though, there has been no immediate fire sale following the failure to secure an immediate return to the Premier League and, though there has been interest in some Blues players, it has been far from the image of vultures picking over a carcass some had feared.
With that in mind, Hughton has left behind a tight and relatively talented squad, one with which he cherished working.
“I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed the season, despite the challenges,” he said. “I think the fact we were always in a good, competitive position, we were always competitive enough, that always makes it more enjoyable.
“Unfortunately in the play-offs I just felt Blackpool went into the semi-finals with more rhythm, they were more settled, and we had a few injuries. They had that extra spark.
“For the supporters, Birmingham will always be their team. But you have to give them something to enjoy, something to get behind and they really spurred us on because I think they realised what we brought on the pitch for them.”
The new manager will look to harness that when the Championship campaign gets underway at home to Charlton Athletic on August 18. Blues’ first away trip takes place three days later when they visit another newly promoted side, Sheffield Wednesday.
Blues travel to Barnsley on Boxing Day and are at home to Blackburn in their final match.