Hughton Says Brum Is Harder Task Than Newcastle
Former Toon boss Chris Hughton took Birmingham City into Europe for the first time in 50 years last night ... and they pulled off a 0-0 draw in Portugal. Hughton brought relegated Newcastle out of the Championship and back into the Premier League two years ago. Now, he is working 15-hour days trying to repeat that with Birmingham. But the odds are stacked against him. He has an owner, Carson Yeung, facing jail over money- laundering charges while his club are having to sell their best players to avoid going bust. Chris Hughton: “This is a different job to Newcastle. “We lost a lot of players at Newcastle, but a very good core stayed. "There have been more changes here. "If you look at what has gone out in the summer and the speculation about the players we still have here, then it is difficult. "It’s a challenge, but a different type of challenge to Newcastle. “What would have made it easier would have been if there wasn’t the speculation, if the players who were going had gone and I knew what I needed to replace. Then, there would be a better picture. “I didn’t walk into this job thinking it would be easy and straightforward. I knew there were going to be difficulties. Whether there are more difficulties than I envisaged, probably yes.” Europe is reward for a season in which the Blues won the Carling Cup, their first major trophy for 48 seasons. The last time Birmingham were in Europe was in 1961, when they lost to Espanyol in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, a forerunner of the UEFA Cup and the Europa League. If they reach the group stages, Hughton will be landed with even more games on top of a demanding Championship season, City’s Carling Cup defence and the FA Cup. Chris Hughton: “In reality do we need all the extra games? The answer would be, ‘No’. “We have taken knock after knock, but there is prestige to Europe. And I am also mindful Birmingham have not been in Europe for such a long, long time.” NACIONAL 0 BIRMINGHAM CITY 0 Birmingham earned a goalless draw from the first leg of their Europa League play-off match at Nacional, but it could have been much better for Chris Hughton's side as they struck the woodwork three times. Chris Wood was twice denied by the frame of the goal in a five-minute spell either side of half-time while Steven Caldwell also saw a first-half header strike the post as Birmingham came closest to breaking the deadlock at the Estadio da Madeira. The npower Championship side, competing in a major European competition for the first time since 1962, gave a debut in midfield to new signing Jonathan Spector while 17-year-old Nathan Redmond had his first start of the season on the wing. Portuguese hosts Nacional started the better of the two sides and a great challenge by Curtis Davies early on denied Mateus da Costa what might have been the opening goal. However, Birmingham eased their way back into the contest and they could consider themselves unlucky not to have held a half-time advantage. Davies brought a save out of home goalkeeper Elisson before Caldwell and Wood both struck the goalframe. Caldwell was the first man to be denied in the 24th minute when his far-post header from Jean Beausejour's corner hit the inside of the post. Wood was also left cursing his luck a minute before the break when he hit the crossbar following a Beausejour free-kick. The visitors carried that momentum into the second half and, inside two minutes of the restart, they hit the post yet again. Redmond's drive from outside the box was parried by Elisson but Chris Burke picked up possession and his cross was headed onto the upright by Wood. Wood then fired an effort across the face of goal before Nacional tried their luck with efforts from Mateus and Diego Barcelos, although neither troubled Boaz Myhill. Birmingham came close to snatching a late winner when Caldwell got on the end of Beausejour's free-kick but his header went over as the game finished goalless. BIRMINGHAM CITY: Myhill, Carr, Davies, Caldwell, Ridgewell, Burke, Murphy, Redmond, Beausejour, Wood, Spector. Subs Not Used: Doyle, Rooney, Fahey, Valles, Asante, Jervis, Hubbins.
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