As we limped towards Championship survival towards the end of last season with a grand total of one goal and two points in seven games, I, and a fair few Brighton and Hove Albion fans, were sceptical about the appointment of Chris Hughton and questioned whether he was the right man for the job. We were playing dire football, we weren’t even creating chances and our players looked uninterested at best and completely out of their depth at worst.
So as the season drew to a close, Hughton had a lot of work to do. Not only did he have to rebuild a squad that released eight first team players at the end of last season, but he also had a lot to work on tactically. But so far, Hughton looks like he’s more than up to the challenge and, in fact, seems to be relishing the chance to create his own team with his own style. This is something that Brighton as a club have been lacking since Gus Poyet was acrimoniously sacked as we crashed out of the play-off semi-finals to our arch rivals, Crystal Palace (it still hurts).
Oscar Garcia, Poyet’s successor, came in half way through pre-season two years ago, as did Sami Hyypia a year later. Both had very contrasting seasons at the Albion, but both suffered from the same problems. Not only did they come in late and have to manage an inherited squad, but they also struggled with Brighton’s awful recruitment system under former Head of Football Operations, David Burke, whose name was the perfect description for him when it came to player recruitment.
Under Hughton, though, Brighton have done the bulk of their business early and, most importantly, they look like players that Hughton wants. The first piece of business came in the form of experienced Premier League full-back, Liam Rosenior, who looks like a cracking signing especially on a free. Rosenior provides competition for spanish right-backs Inigo Calderon and Bruno as well as left-back cover if needed.
After Rosenior, forward Tomer Hemed was the next to arrive for a seven figure fee from Almeria. Obviously last season the lack of goals were the main thing that let us down and after letting Glenn Murray go to Palace on a free and Leonardo Ulloa’s eight million pound transfer to Leicester, The Seagulls have failed to keep hold of their main goalscorers and since arriving in the Championship, Ulloa aside, we’ve struggled to find that threatening goalscorer. And boy, have we tried finding him with Billy Paynter, Sam Vokes, Will Hoskins, Leon Best and Darren Bent scoring a combined amount of six goals in three seasons. Hopefully Hemed will hit it off just like another striker that came from Almeria…
Gaetan Bong was the next signing at left-back. This signing is a fantastic metaphor for the stability that Hughton is going to provide. For the last three seasons, Brighton have had three different left-backs on loan and although they were good, the flamboyant Bong will be much-needed for a strong and consistent back four in a tough league.
It is clear that Hughton is looking towards youth as well as he’s brought in Jack Harper from Real Madrid, Vahid Hambo from Inter Turku and Daniel Akindayini from Tottenham. This is going to be especially important when the emergency loan system is taken away and with Brighton’s outstanding new training facilities hopefully these players can thrive at The Albion. They also provide a lot more strength in depth than we’ve had in previous years.
Up next for Hughton has to be a centre-half and and a pacey winger, but so far this pre-season Hughton has impressed me. He’s done exactly what he’s needed to do at Brighton and that’s to get the players in early, make them gel quickly and get the team playing winning football. Let’s see how it goes come August 7th when Brighton kick off the entire Football League against Nottingham Forest in front of the Sky camera’s. The whole world will be watching, but I think Hughton is more than up for the challenge and I hope he stays here for years to come.
By Liam Mcmillen – Brighton fan – @