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Hughton: Survival Norwich’s Priority


Manager Chris Hughton accepts Barclays Premier League survival remains Norwich’s “biggest priority”, but feels the FA Cup will forever be a “very special competition”.

The Canaries host fellow relegation-battlers Fulham at Carrow Road on Saturday, looking to make amends for the disappointing 2-1 home defeat on Boxing Day.

Hughton – whose side were knocked out at home by non-league Luton in the shock of last season’s third round – fully understands the needs for the Norfolk club to retain their top-flight status.

However, the former Tottenham defender, who won back-to-back FA Cup finals at Wembley in the early 1980s, sees no reason why teams should not aim to stay in the famous old competition as long as possible.

“There is no doubt the biggest priority for us is making sure we do well enough in the Premier League, but we also want to do well enough in the FA Cup and would like to make progress if we can,” said Hughton.

“I was fortunate to be involved in cup-winning teams a long time ago, certainly a lot longer than some of our younger supporters would know about, in 1981 and 1982.

“I think whichever year you look at, the FA Cup competition hasn’t changed as regards the stature that it has worldwide.

“The approach to the FA Cup has changed of course over the years, as many aspects of the game have, but it is still a very special competition.”

Hughton added on Canaries Player: “There has been a mentality change a bit by a lot of clubs, with the amount of games there are now and how big this Barclays Premier League is now, but I think it is still the best cup competition in the world and the one which historically will certainly remain that way.”

Hughton is set to utilise the full Norwich squad on Saturday, with club-record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel, fit again from a toe injury, set to lead the attack, while misfit striker Luciano Becchio could also be handed a chance to impress along with 18-year-old winger Josh Murphy and his twin brother Jacob.

Centre-half Michael Turner is doubtful with a hamstring problem picked up in the 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace on New Year’s Day, while Leroy Fer serves a one-match suspension after he was sent off.

Hughton added: “The tough part will be making the right balance between making the changes, giving players an opportunity, but giving ourselves a really good chance to win the game.

“We are playing against a top-class opposition which makes the task even tougher, but we are at home, so I think it is a good distraction.”

Whatever side he puts out, Hughton is determined for a much-improved display than the last time Fulham came to Norfolk.

“We certainly want to be doing better than our Boxing Day result,” he said.

“After having taken the lead and having a couple of good opportunities, it was a real disappointment to lose that game.

“This is an opportunity for us to make amends.

“It is always about a result, this is a game we want to win and get through.”

While Hughton has no pressing need of reinforcements following a £20million-plus summer spending spree, the Norwich manager will keep all options option.

Hughton also maintained he had no intentions of letting anyone leave, with Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan both linked with moves away from Carrow Road in January.

“At the moment our thoughts are not on anyone leaving the club. What happens come the end of the month you can never pre-empt, but the decisions I am making are all about who we bring in,” Hughton said.

“What we find in the last few seasons is that as the month progresses it tends to get busier and even more hectic, particularly that last week.

“The phone has certainly been busy, that is normal and would not just be myself, but every manager.

“We are continuing to work hard and make the right decisions.

“January might be with us now, but this is a process which rolls on throughout the season.”

Written by George Coomber

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