Chris Hughton sat high in the stands, stuck among the media in his green Ghana training gear, sending advice over a two-way radio to the bench as the West Africans beat South Korea on Monday to win their first World Cup points in Qatar.
The former Brighton manager and Republic of Ireland international full-back is a key but almost invisible member of the coaching staff, now looking to plot Uruguay’s downfall on Friday and earn Ghana a spot in the last 16 of the tournament in Qatar.
Hughton, who turns 64 next month, has kept a low profile in Qatar in his role as technical adviser but there is no doubt that he is an integral part of the confidence of Ghana’s masterminds.
“He has a lot of experience and knowledge and he always tries to give his best for the team,” said coach Otto Addo, who was a surprise pick for Ghana after a disastrous final in the African Cup of Nations in January and who was parachuted a few weeks later. of their World Cup play-off against Nigeria in March.
Addo had no senior coaching experience but has worked at youth level in Germany for over a decade. Hughton, whose father was born in Ghana and was visiting the country at the time, was asked to help.
Ghana managed that draw with Nigeria, with some fortune, and the coaching staff was kept in place for the World Cup.
“We have a very good relationship, Chris Hughton is a very experienced coach,” Addo added earlier this week.
“He takes a lot of things out of my head to focus on the team. And on tactics, he also gives advice. We have good exchanges with him, but also with the other coaches like George Boateng and Didi Dramani.
Hughton also did a lot of prep. Addo said: “He was here inspecting the hotels. He was there to organize everything. He’s done a great job so far and he’s been a big help to me.
Hughton remained in the shadows during the World Cup but, in a recent interview with the Mail on Sunday, said of his role: “I feel a strong connection to the country. So when they asked me if I was willing to help, using my experience and knowledge, the answer was always yes.
Hughton went to the 1990 World Cup with Ireland but did not play. He did, however, earn 53 caps over a 12-year spell while on the books at Tottenham and West Ham. His status as a former Premier League manager – he took Brighton to the Premier League in 2017 – gives him a role as a seasoned statesman.
“I trust the team and the technical staff, but part of my role should be to be realistic. Not to discourage expectations, but to speak honestly.
“One thing I’m sure of is the work that Otto and the technical staff have put in. This team is very well prepared and the players give their all. We will have to play well and we will need a bit of luck. But we have seen in past tournaments that anything is possible for a country like ours.
Additional Reuters reporting.