A Year To Remember – A Fan’s Reflection on this Season

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Credit: Getty Images

Brighton can top off what has been a fairy-tale season for the Seagulls with a win against Bristol City this Saturday. 3 points would guarantee the title and put Chris Hughton’s table-toppers on a spectacular 95 points.

It seems like an eternity ago when we lost 2-0 to Newcastle in August and were sitting in 12th. This season has been filled with magical moments – Starting with the players touching tribute to Knockaert after his fathers passing, Glenn Murray’s last gasp header to win away at Birmingham, the 5-0 battering of Norwich, David Stockdale’s double penalty save against Sheffield Wednesday, Knockaert’s magical skills and goals, even the calm words of Chris Hughton (whatever the result). I can’t think of any negatives about this season.

Chris Hughton

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Where do I start about this man?

His humble and selfless attitude is something you rarely see in this modern game surrounded by over-flamboyant, egotistical maniacs. The likes of Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho, and dare I say, even Gus Poyet (towards the end of his tenure at the club) are some of the names that spring to mind.

Hughton is arguably one of the most underrated managers in English football.

The former West Ham defender won the title with Newcastle in the 2009/10 season, took them to 11th in the Premier League and was sacked by controversial owner, Mike Ashley. Furthermore, he took Norwich to 11th in his first full season in the Premier League, a remarkable achievement. He was sacked after a poor run of form, but Norwich weren’t in the relegation zone at the time of his sacking.

He has taken Brighton from the brink of relegation to League 1 in 2014/15 and guided them above the likes of Newcastle and Aston Villa, who have spent a combined total of £120 million.

Chris Hughton is likely to get a fairer crack of the whip this time with Brighton. Tony Bloom is a sensible man. Even if Brighton got relegated in the 2017/18 season, I doubt Hughton would get sacked, he would be the best man to take Brighton straight back up.


The Players

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Credit: Jason Brown

What a great group of character Brighton have in their squad. We saw this with the promotion celebration with the likes of Sam Baldock crowd-surfing on a train going towards Brighton, Anthony Knockaert leading chants in West Street, even Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy clubbing in Brighton two days after the match!

This group of lads deserve this chance in the Premier League, whether some of them will make the step up is down to personal opinion, but I’m sure Hughton will give everyone the chance they have earnt to prove themselves at a higher level.

This squad will be sealed in history as the players who did the unthinkable and took the club who hadn’t been in the top flight for 34 years into the richest league in the world.


Tony Bloom

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Credit: James Marsh

The man behind it all. Raised as a Brighton fan, he has always had the club at heart, something we don’t have with many other chairmen these days – evidence of this can be seen with the unfortunate demise of Charlton and Leyton Orient.

He has funded the transfers, the stadium, training ground, and given constant support. He is finally getting his return on investment after taking over the club 8 years ago. He has taken the club to the next level and will always be considered a club legend.

Let’s not forget people behind the scenes such as Paul Barber and many others who have made the club into a tight cohesive financial unit.

Now the club most focus on hopefully winning the title, but most importantly, their first season in the Premier League. Everyone knows it will be tough, relegation will be a massive threat for Brighton, but all I can say is you would struggle to find someone better than Chris Hughton with his experience and Tony Bloom with his business credentials to take Brighton that extra step forward into becoming a secure Premier League club.

Is Dale Stephens the central figure to Brighton’s promotion hopes?

Dale Stephens often goes unnoticed during matches, his stats on paper aren’t fantastic from an outsiders point of view either. Two goals and one solitary assist this season seems much worse than his seven goals and five assists from the 2015/16 season. However his link up play, physicality, and superb technical ability has been vital for Brighton this season.  In 22 appearances, Brighton have won 18 games, drawn 5, and lost 0 with Stephens in the team.

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Dale Stephens evades Hull’s Jake Livermore – Picture taken by: Richard Parkes

 

The 27 year old’s place at the club was shrouded in speculation in the summer. Multiple bids from Burnley, which ended with an eventual £7 million pound bid left Albion fans praying for the transfer window to slam shut as soon as possible. This ended with Stephens handing a transfer request in a last ditch attempt to force a move to Burnley and play Premier League football. The Bolton-born midfielder tweeted to Brighton fans about his desire to play in the Premier League, he also stated that he would honour his contract and do everything he could to help Brighton achieve promotion.

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Dale Stephens’ tweet composed on 01/09/16

Stephens offers technical ability superior to many Championship players. His 88% pass completion percentage and average of 46 passes per game show how crucial he is in the heart of Brighton’s midfield. According to http://www.squawka.com, 65% of Stephens’ passes have been forward passes.

The £500,000 investment for Dale in January 2014 has proved very wise of Tony Bloom and the scouting team. His current market value is £4,250,000 and is still rising from his consistently good performances (source: http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk)

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Stephens stated, “every time I’m on the pitch I’m fully committed. That’s something I will carry on doing throughout the season.”

“We want to do this together and sometimes you’ve got to be patient and wait for your chance.”

Dale Stephens should be fit enough to start Saturday’s game against Burton Albion after suffering from a recurring groin injury. He will prove vital for the must-win games against Burton and Ipswich. Win both of those, and Brighton and Hove Albion will be back on track.


Article by George Carden

Match Preview – Brighton vs Sheffield Wednesday – 20/01/17

Brighton face a sixth placed Sheffield Wednesday side who will be looking to cause an upset in front of the Sky cameras.

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Courtesy of http://www.seagulls.co.uk

Recent Form

Brighton suffered their first defeat in 18 games last weekend away to Preston North End. The Seagulls hadn’t lost a league game since September 10. However, before that, Chris Hughton’s side won five games in a row. Brighton currently have 12 points out of 15 in their last five games.

Sheffield Wednesday are currently unbeaten in six games, they have won four of those last six. Carlos Carvahal’s side boast wins against table-toppers Newcastle, and Huddersfield Town. In their last 5 games, the Owls have acquired 11 points out of a possible 15.


Last Time Out

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Brighton won 2-1 thanks to goals from Sam Baldock and Anthony Knockaert. Gary Hooper scored a 90th minute consolation but it was too little, too late for Sheffield Wednesday.


Familiar Faces

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Image courtesy: Getty Images

Will Buckley. The winger joined Brighton in the summer of 2011 and went on to score 19 goals in 96 games for Seagulls. He then linked up with former manager, Gus Poyet, at Sunderland. Buckley failed to adapt to life in the Premier League. He made just over 20 appearances for Sunderland but since then has been loaned out to Leeds United, Birmingham City and current team, Sheffield Wednesday.


Fact of the Day:

Brighton last played Sheffield Wednesday on a Friday evening in 2012. The Seagulls won 3-0 thanks to goals from Craig Mackail-Smith, Wayne Bridge and you guessed it… Will Buckley.


We are looking forward to…

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Image courtesy: Getty Images

Having Lewis Dunk back in the side. He has been a rock in defence all season and having him back from his two-game suspension will be crucial.


Verdict

Another massive game for Brighton. The players will be bursting to claim even more ‘revenge’ after the play off misery of last season. That revenge factor played the difference at Hillsborough in October and it could be the difference tonight.

Prediction:

BHAFC: 2

Murray, Dunk

Sheffield Wednesday: 1

Wallace

 

Article by George Carden

Albion December Round Up

Brighton remained unbeaten throughout December. The Seagulls haven’t lost a league game in 104 days. The last league defeat they suffered was against Brentford all the way back in September. In that time, they have kept 11 clean sheets in 18 matches and scored 33 goals. Here is everything that happened for Brighton over the festive period.


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Brighton travelled up to a Cardiff side who hadn’t yet found their feet this season. It was newly appointed assistant-manager Paul Trollope’s first return to the Welsh side since his sacking in October. The game finished 0-0 and the only notable incident was Gaetan Bong receiving a second yellow and being banned for the Leeds game.

Six days later, Brighton hosted Leeds in what looked to be a tough fixture. Kalvin Phillips denied a certain goal from Lewis Dunk by blocking the ball with his hand. The defender was given a straight red. The resulting penalty was scored by Glenn Murray. Brighton sealed the game with eight minutes to go. Dunk was fouled in the box and Hemed stepped up to coolly dispatch the penalty. That was the Israeli international’s fifth goal in four games against Leeds.

Albion faced Blackburn on the 13th of December. It was a night for returning defenders. Signed from Blackburn in the summer, Shane Duffy scored a header to open the scoring whilst ex-Seagulls skipper, Gordon Greer, received a second yellow for a rash tackle on Glenn Murray. Brighton ended up winning 3-2 with Dale Stephens and Glenn Murray grabbing the goals. Sam Gallagher made the affair seem closer with a last minute consolation.

Brighton then travelled up to Birmingham on 17th December. The Seagulls went 1-0 down through a Jutkiewicz header. However, thanks to Solly March causing havoc on the Blues defence, Brighton were able to make it 1-1 thanks to a driven shot from Anthony Knockaert. It was his first goal since his fathers passing. Knockaert was also the man to deliver the corner for Murray’s 94th minute winner.

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Image courtesy of: zimbio.com



Brighton also faced QPR on 27th December. The Seagulls didn’t cover themselves in glory. However, thanks to a Sam Baldock screamer, they took the lead early. Murray and Knockaert capped off a straightforward win for Hughton’s side.

On the 30th December, we were unfortunate to see the first ever game postponed at the Amex. Brighton were set to play Cardiff for the second match between the two, however due to thick fog, the match had to be cancelled.

Brighton players walk across the pitch before the game is called off due to thick fog and low visibility before the Sky Bet Championship match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Cardiff City at the Amex Stadium, Brighton on 30th December 2016
Image courtesy of: brunchnews.com

 

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Chris Hughton was awarded manager of the month for December after remaining unbeaten and picking up 13 points out of a possible 15. Brighton also ended 2016 top of the league!

Let’s hope January is just as successful for Brighton!

Article by George Carden

Match Preview – Everything you need to know about Aston Villa

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The West Midlands side have suffered a rough start to their first season in the second tier since the 1987/88 season. New owner, Tony Xia, hired Champions League winner Roberto Di Matteo at the start of the season. The Italian was sacked after only 12 games and 1 solitary win. Since then, they have acquired Steve Bruce. The former Manchester United defender is the perfect appointment for Villa. He knows what it takes to achieve success on and off the field and he will certainly make the Villans a formidable threat come the end of the season.

Summer Signings

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Villa have spent a total of £49,000,000 in transfer fees and have acquired 17 players. Their heftiest dealings come in the form of Ross McCormack (£14 million), Jonathan Kodjia (£11 million) and James Chester (£7.91 million). Villa have made a loss of £33 million this season. A huge gamble which so far hasn’t paid off but with the quality of their signings and experience of Steve Bruce, it is almost a certainty that they will  be challenging for at least a play off place come the end of the season.


History

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Tony Barton (left) and Dennis Mortimer (right)  lifting European Cup at victory parade in 1982.

Aston Villa were founded in 1874. They have been one of the most influential clubs in England due to the fact they were a founding member of the Football League in 1888 and a founding member of the Premier League in 1992.

Aston Villa have a rich list of achievements. Arguably their biggest achievements was winning the European Cup in 1981/82 (beating Bayern Munich 1-0). Along with this, Villa have also won the first division seven times, the FA Cup seven times and the UEFA Super Cup once.


Familiar Faces:

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Tommy Elphick. The Brighton youth academy graduate played 153 times for the Seagulls. He left in 2012 due to injury problems and a lack of first team football. He then joined Bournemouth and captained them on a remarkable journey from League 1 into the Premier League. However, the defender only made 14 appearances last season which is why he decided to drop down a league and join current team, Aston Villa.

Another familiar face for both sets of supporters will be Warren Aspinall. He was their top scorer in the season they got promoted back to the top division in 1987/88.


Fact of the Day:

This season is the only season Aston Villa have not partaken in the Premier League since its founding in 1992.


Verdict:

Villa have been a much improved side since Steve Bruce took charge. Ignore their poor start as with the players they have got and the recent form they are in means it will be an extremely tough match. Brighton have been very impressive this season and have kept four clean sheets in a row. Both sides will cancel each other out tonight.

Prediction:

2-2

Article by George Carden

Match Preview – Bristol City vs Brighton – 06/11/16

Brighton face 6th placed Bristol City in what looks to be an intense affair.

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Recent Form

Bristol have acquired 7 points in their last 5 games. This includes two wins, two losses, and a draw. Disappointing losses to Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff will be frustrating for the Robins.

Brighton have acquired 13 points in their last 5 games. Impressive victories over Sheffield Wednesday and a 5-0 thrashing of fellow promotion contenders, Norwich, has boosted positivity among the Seagulls supporters. Brighton were pegged back by Preston, an extremely disappointing result for Chris Hughton’s men.


Last Time Out

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The last time these two sides met was back in February. Brighton were victorious with a straight-forward 4 nil victory. The goals came from Murphy, Hemed, Baldock and an own-goal from Mark Little.


Familiar Faces

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Sam Baldock is the only player to feature for both Brighton and Bristol. Baldock scored 24 league goals for Bristol City in the 2013/14 season. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help get the club promoted that season.


Fact of the day:

The play off final match at the Millennium Stadium between Bristol and Brighton was 12 years and 154 days ago as of today!


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How the Albion cope with on-loan striker, Tammy Abraham. The Chelsea youngster has scored 9 goals in 15 Championship games this season. However he has only scored 1 of these goals in his last 5 games.


Verdict

Bristol City are a much improved team this year. If they manage to keep some consistency for the rest of the season, there is no reason why they can’t finish in the play-offs. They will be a tough opponent for Chris Hughton’s side. Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy have been rock-solid this season. Given the fact that Abraham (who has scored 9 of Bristol’s 23 goals) isn’t on his best form as well makes me think Brighton will edge this match.

Prediction:

BHAFC: 2 – Murray, Baldock

Bristol: 0 – N/A

Article by George Carden

The Importance of Glenn Murray

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The striker scored a superb goal on Saturday after collecting the ball faced away from goal, wrong-footing the defender, drawing the keeper out and slotting it home with his weaker foot.

Glenn Murray, the player who led Brighton’s League One promotion charge in 2010/11 with 22 goals, is now leading the charge for the Seagulls’ second attempt at automatic promotion from last season.

The Cumbrian-born striker has acquired 6 goals in 10 starts this season and doesn’t look like slowing down. His reign of goalscoring form is no surprise, he managed 4 goals in his first 6 games for the Seagulls after joining from Rochdale in the 2007/08 season. A natural goal scorer.

He was awarded MOTM on Saturday, his second of the season. Brighton fans will be hoping he can repeat his performance tonight against a solid Wolves side.

Whatever happens this season, we all know Glenn Murray will be one of the most crucial parts of the difference between play-offs and top two.

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Image courtesy of: Reuters

 


Style of play

Fellow goal scorer, Sam Baldock said this about Glenn Murray:

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Glenn Murray’s 2016/17 so far…

12 appearances

6 goals

2.7 shots per game

61.7% pass success percentage

3.3 aerial duels won per game

2 Man of the Match awards

7.07 average rating

 

Article by George Carden