Chris Hughton has done better than he expected as Albion’s manager.

Hughton returns to his former club Newcastle with the Seagulls tomorrow, three years after taking charge.

They were 21st in the Championship when he succeeded Sami Hyypia and are currently 12th in the Premier League, three points and three places above their hosts.

Hughton told The Argus: “When I came in it was a difficult season, like any club can have.

“We’d had two play-off seasons before that.

“It’s very difficult in the third one.

“At that stage, the ambition of course was ultimately to get to the Premier League but there are only a few that can do it.

“A lot of them are teams that have gone down and come back up again.

“The two that have not been there before are ourselves and Huddersfield.

“There are not many that do it so, am I in front of where I thought I would be in three years time? Yes.

“In our game most managers are not there after three years.

“I’m really delighted where we are at this moment and probably ahead of what I thought.”

Bruno, Gaetan Bong, Anthony Knockaert, Pascal Gross and Glenn Murray could all be recalled to the starting line-up by Hughton following the Boxing Day defeat at Chelsea as Albion aim for only their second win in ten games.

Newcastle boss Rafa Benitez is also expected to make widespread changes to the side beaten 1-0 at home on Wednesday night by runaway leaders Manchester City, their ninth defeat in 11 matches.

Albion face a quick turnaround before another key game in their bid to stay up at home to Bournemouth on Monday (12.30).

Hughton said: “It is always a real difficult decision on trying to get that balance between rotation or seeing how the first game goes or having an idea in your mind who might play in the second game.”

Newcastle have suffered a blow with goalkeeper Rob Elliot ruled out by a thigh injury. Karl Darlow takes over between the sticks.