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Brighton and Hove Albion

Can Brighton exceed all expectations in achieving promotion to the Premier League?

Jake Jackman



Brighton and Hove Albion have exceeded expectations this season and are heading into the run-in as one of the contenders for automatic promotion. They are competing with Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City, but Brighton have no pressure on them unlike the aforementioned teams, which can only be a positive.

After starting the season with a 21 match unbeaten run, the side dropped out of the top two and lost pace on the leading pack. However, they have re-emerged as a genuine contender for the top two positions over the last few weeks, and were unlucky not to beat leaders Burnley at the weekend.

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This is the club’s fifth season in the Championship and they have finished in the top six on two occasions. They have probably overachieved over their spell in the second tier, but after a relegation fight last season, many thought that Brighton had missed their chance to gain promotion. There were fears that Brighton would be languishing in the bottom five or six again this season. However, some clever business in the transfer window and a first full season for proven Championship manager Chris Hughton has seen the club improve massively.

Hughton has won the division with Newcastle United before, while he also did a good job with Birmingham City a few years ago, and took the Blues to the play-offs. He is used to challenging in the top half of the division and that has been a positive for the Seagulls this season. Brighton have become hard to beat under Hughton, as was reflected by their incredible unbeaten start to the season. Although too many draws mean that they aren’t in the top two at the moment, they have laid a solid foundation, which have allowed the club to be constants in the play-off positions since the opening weekend of the season. Alongside QPR, the club have the most draws in the division with 15, but they have made significant moves to improve that in recent weeks.

The arrival of Anthony Knockaert was a great piece of business as he has added dynamism to the attacking line up. The Frenchman is technically very good, having the ability to beat players with skill, while his final ball is amongst the best in the division. He was something of a coup for the club, as he has proven himself in the division before with Leicester City, and when he was with the Foxes, he was considered ahead of Riyad Mahrez in the pecking order. This proves how talented the winger is and at the age of 24, he could still develop further, which should excite Brighton fans.

Hughton has opted to blend youth with experience with the likes of Bobby Zamora, Steve Sidwell and Liam Rosenior providing Premier League experience. The manager likes to play with two forwards in 4-4-2 formation. This is very rigid and requires players to carry out a precise role, but it is simple and has given the side success. Hughton has always liked to play with old-fashioned target men, with Shola Ameobi and Andy Carroll being his strike-force when he led Newcastle back to the top flight at the first attempt. He has continued this on the South Coast with Bobby Zamora and Tomer Hemed being his preferred strike-force. This has prevented James Wilson from gaining the first team football that he expected at the club, making just nine starts since joining the club on loan.

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This has been an excellent season for the Seagulls, regardless of how it ends. The squad still has noticeable weaknesses that would need to be addressed if they are to get promoted to the Premier League. Meanwhile Hughton has twice failed in the Premier League with Newcastle and Norwich City, and may struggle again if he beats the odds and leads Brighton to the top flight. There is some genuine talent in this Brighton squad, but the most impressive thing has been their ability to play as a unit. In years gone by, we have seen the likes of Reading and Burnley come up with a strong unit, but lacking the quality in the side and they were both relegated. This would be a worry for Brighton if they were to come up and fail to bring in the required players.

Their run-in looks good, as they have a number of winnable home matches against the likes of QPR and Fulham. Automatic promotion still looks like it might be just beyond them as the other three teams in contention have stronger squads. However, Brighton have been the hardest side to beat this season alongside Burnley and they will be in the race until the very end. If they do miss out and make the play offs, they will be a tough proposition for any side.

Are Brighton destined for a play-off finish, or can they still achieve the Premier League dream through automatic promotion? How much of a success would the south coast reaching the top flight be? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below.

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Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Brighton and Hove Albion

Rodrigo reported as Brighton target, but he is surely too expensive?

The Valencia striker is reportedly wanted by a trio of Premier League clubs.



Photo: Getty Images

Brighton, along with Tottenham Hotspur and Everton have been linked with a move for Valencia forward Rodrigo this summer.

Calciomercato claims that all three clubs are interested in signing the Spanish international come the summer. The report discloses his massive €120 million (£105.4 million) release clause, but that offers in the region of €40 million (£35 million) are expected.

Which is surely when the links to Brighton have to stop.

Rodrigo, who had a spell at Bolton Wanderers as a young player on loan from Benfica, would be a tremendous signing for Brighton.

(Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old has scored 16 goals in 35 games for Los Che this season. Such form could see him earn a place in Spain’s squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

Brighton, however, simply cannot afford such a massive sum of money on one player, especially considering the club recently broke their record to sign Dutch striker Jurgen Locadia.

According to the Guardian, that fee was around £14 million. Paying more than double that on Rodrigo is simply inconceivable.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It would immediately undermine the money they spent on Locadia, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven and leave very little in the kitty to improve other areas of the team this summer.

Rodrigo would undoubtedly be a dream signing for Brighton. The Seagulls look increasingly safe in the Premier League and bringing in a top name this summer would be a popular move among fans at the Amex Arena.

But simply put, £35 million is just not a figure Brighton can or should pay for just one player. Instead, such money should be spread out throughout the team evenly. Distributing the funds in this way will allow Brighton to fully strengthen their side and maintain the balance that has taken them to a brilliant first Premier League campaign.

There might come a day when Brighton can afford to splurge £35 million on just one player. That day, however, will not be in 2018.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Is Brighton’s Christian Walton a future England star?

The 22-year-old stopper has been in fine form at Wigan Athletic.



Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup run has come to an end. The Latics lost 2-0 against Southampton at the DW Stadium, despite being the better team in the first-half. However, Southampton came alive in the second period and goals from Pierre Hojbjerg and Cedric Soares settled the tie.

It could have been more, were it not for a brilliant penalty save from Wigan goalkeeper Christian Walton. He dived to his left and got a strong palm to a driven effort from 12 yards by Manolo Gabbiadini. Unbelievably, Walton managed to get enough on the ball to turn it around the post and keep Wigan in the tie.

It was a brilliant save in what was another excellent performance from the young stopper. So do Brighton and Hove Albion have a future star on their hands?

Walton is on loan at Wigan from Brighton until the end of the season. It is the fifth loan spell of Walton’s career after similar spells at Bury, Plymouth Argyle, Luton Town and Southend United.

The 22-year-old’s brilliant performance v Southampton was no anomaly. He was in fine form in Wigan’s recent famous win against Manchester City.

Brighton clearly know they have a top talent on their hands, yet Chris Hughton has not yet pulled the trigger on the player.

In the summer, when Brighton lost number one David Stockdale to Birmingham City, Hughton signed two new keepers. Australian international Mat Ryan arrived from Valencia whilst Tim Krul was a free transfer from Newcastle United.

(Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

But Brighton did secure Walton to a new deal, keeping him at the Amex Arena until 2021. With Krul’s deal ending at the end of the season, perhaps Walton will be in line to be the Seagulls second-choice keeper from next season.

England currently have something of a concern regarding the goalkeeper position but the future is bright. Sam Johnstone, Freddie Woodman and Angus Gunn look like top talents and Walton must be included in the same company.

Not only an excellent shot-stopper, but Walton is confident coming off his line and good with the ball at his feet.

The competition is certainly fierce, with the likes of Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope also potential future England goalkeepers.

But Walton might just be in with a shout of such accolades in the future as well if he can find his way at Brighton.

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Brighton and Hove Albion

Manager of the Month: Can Chris Hughton now play out a dream season with Brighton?

The Brighton boss was recently crowned February Manager of the Month.

Jake Jackman



Chris Hughton
Photo: Getty Images

Chris Hughton has not received a huge amount of exposure for the job that he is doing with Brighton, but back-to-back Premier League wins have seen the Seagulls rise to 10th position in the table and he has subsequently been rewarded with the February Manager of the Month award.

As a newly-promoted team, they will have targeted survival. Although it remains tight at the bottom, it would take a considerable drop-off for the South Coast team to suffer relegation, especially following an unbeaten run throughout the last month.

But Hughton won’t be getting too far ahead of himself. After all, his team squandered a seven-point lead with three games to go in the Championship last season.

That said, he has done a tremendous job at the Amex Stadium and gone a long way to proving those that doubted him wrong. Hughton is seen as one of the nicest men in football and a safe pair of hands, but he hasn’t always convinced as a Premier League manager.

His first spell in charge of a top-flight club was at Newcastle United. Hughton led them back to the Premier League at the first attempt and the team were in 11th position when he was dismissed. It was considered harsh at the time and even Magpies owner Mike Ashley has admitted since that it was a mistake in an interview with Sky Sports:

“I thought I was very unfair to Chris Hughton, who got us promoted, I don’t think I gave him enough time.”

Hughton was well liked by both the players and supporters at Newcastle. He pulled the club together after the disaster of relegation and managed to win the Championship with ease. Considering it was his first job in management, he was thrown straight into a difficult job and coped well with it. The sacking has unfairly put a black mark on his record and he has been trying to erase it ever since.

The next Premier League he was given was at Norwich City and he fared okay with the Canaries. During his first season, he led them to 11th position. Considering their relative stature in the game, that is a great achievement. However, the style of play was bland and supporters were quick to turn on him in the following season.

The club sacked him with five matches to go in the 2013/14 campaign with the club lying five points above the relegation zone. It was a strange decision, especially as Neil Adams was chosen to take over with no experience of top-flight management. Norwich were relegated that season. They may have faced the same fate had they kept faith in Hughton, but they would have had a better chance of survival.

How he has enhanced his reputation at Brighton

Despite doing a decent job with Norwich before dismissal, Hughton had to drop a division to take his next job and it was with Brighton and Hove Albion. The Seagulls were in 21st position at the time after the poor tenure of Sami Hyypia, but the potential was obvious.

The facilities were great and the new stadium was built with Premier League football as the target. The club had challenged at the top for a number of years previous and had become regulars in the play-offs, but they couldn’t get over the line.

Hughton had won promotion with Newcastle and came close with Birmingham. It was a perfect match as he needed to repair his reputation out of the spotlight. It wasn’t instant success as he fought relegation for the rest of the season and stayed up by only six points. However, he did enough to win favour with the board and he hasn’t looked back since.

During his second season, the club challenged for promotion and missed out only on goal difference by two goals. It was heartbreak on the final day as they needed a win against rivals Middlesbrough, but came up short. They couldn’t get themselves back up for the play-offs and were knocked out by Sheffield Wednesday.

It seemed like both Hughton and Brighton had missed their opportunity of promotion, but they regrouped and earned it the following season in convincing fashion. They may have collapsed late to lose out on the title, but they had won promotion by April and it was never really in doubt.

That was an excellent achievement, but there remained doubts about Hughton’s ability to establish Brighton in the Premier League.

The summer saw him make shrewd additions with Pascal Gross, Mathew Ryan, Davy Propper, Ezequiel Schelotto and Jose Izquierdo coming in to strengthen the first-team. It took some of them time to settle, but they are all now starters. As a newly-promoted club, it is important to add quality to the squad if you are to survive.

Despite being a newly-promoted club, Brighton haven’t really been in much danger of relegation this season. They haven’t been in the relegation zone since the second week of the season. The bottom-half of the table has been tight, but the Seagulls have always had a buffer to the relegation zone. They have taken points from 18 of their 19 matches and their recent match display against Arsenal was the highlight of their season to date.

In the first-half, they attacked with vigour and caused Arsenal a lot of problems. They went 2-0 up and could have scored more on another day.

Although the Gunners got a goal back, the result never looked in serious danger and the home side managed the game well. It was a performance fitting of a Premier League team and the aim now will be to establish themselves at this level over the course of several years.

It is a challenge that Hughton will be relishing. In a period of few British coaches at the highest level, the Brighton manager is proving that he is one of the best and he could start to be linked with bigger jobs if he continues to impress.

The Seagulls remain in the FA Cup and have reached the quarter-final stage for the first time since 1986. Hughton is establishing himself as one of the best managers in the club’s history and although they face a difficult match against Manchester United to reach Wembley, they have the ability to get to the next round.

There is a long way to go in this season, but Brighton could feasibly finish in the top half of the Premier League and win the FA Cup. That would be a season beyond the wildest dreams of many supporters. It remains a long shot, but to be in with a chance is a great achievement by Hughton.

If his side can finish the season strongly, he has to be in contention to win Manager of the Year award.

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