Monday Musings

Two draws on Sunday left Albion 16th in the Premier League with 4 points from 5 games and 8th in the WSL with 5 points from 5 games

A derby draw that raised more questions than answers

Let’s be honest, Sunday afternoons 1-1 draw in the (don’t call it the M23 Derby) Derby left neither party happy. Whilst hosts Palace walked away underwhelmed with a sum total of zero XG if we exclude the debatable penalty, Albion walked away frustrated after a domination of a total of twenty shots to Palace’s one resulted in only a draw and only Albion’s fourth point from their opening five games.

Those opening five fixtures were always going to be tough and the impressive win over Newcastle as well as some notable injustices and unfortunate defeats have left plenty still feeling optimistic despite the disappointing results recorded. But, didn’t we feel the same way this time last season?

Brighton opened last season with a similarly impressive run of performances in their opening games which gained a similarly disappointing points total, with one impressive 3-0 win away from home propping things up. Sound familiar?

Graham Potter was given the benefit of the doubt then due to his newly appointed status as manager. But what is also different is the level of opposition, which this time around was comparatively much higher. As such the upcoming home games against West Brom and Burnley respectively are likely to give a better barometer of Albion’s progress under Potter to date and answer a number of those still unanswered questions that remain from the end of last season.

An impressive away point on a satisfactory Sunday

If Albion’s draw in the Premier League was underwhelming, the impressive nature of Hope Powell’s teams 2-2 draw away to in-form Everton in the WSL was far from it. In fact Albion remain the only team not to have been beaten by Everton women’s team so far this season ahead of their next match in the belated Women’s FA Cup final against Man City.

Albion took a slightly fortunate lead when Everton‘s Sevecke inadvertently turned in a dangerous Kaagman free kick. The Dutch international player took the plaudits as she came up against her old club Everton for the first time since signing for Albion this summer.

Albion were then unfortunate to not go in ahead at the break after a deflected Christiansen free kick flew into the top corner and evened the scores as well as the luck. Albion’s ‘keeper Walsh was then once again this season forced to make a number of important saves to keep Albion level before getting a hand but not managing to keep out a Gauvin header from an Everton corner which gave the Toffees the lead.

But Albion saved the best goal of the game until last as a brilliant team move was finished off by the team’s top scorer last season Aileen Whelan, as she slid home the equaliser to get her first of the new season.

It’s a draw that not only puts the teams cup disappointment as well last weekend’s heavy defeat to Arsenal behind them, but also suggests the impressive win over Birmingham and draw with Man City were more of an indication of the team’s potential this season than that heavy defeat.

The game was slightly spoilt by some questionable refereeing after Albion’s Kayleigh Green appeared to be awarded two yellow cards but no red, in what was presumably an unfortunate case of mistaken identity. Mistakes happen, but ones of the officiating kind happen far too often in the women’s game. This one however is one which as it came to Albion’s aide, I am willing to tolerate as the luck swung once in Albion’s favour.

Are Maupay’s chances running out as Welbeck signs?

Albion striker Neal Maupay certainly had and missed his chances against Palace on Sunday (6 shots – 2 on target, 1 off target, 3 blocked). But with the announcement pre-match of the Club’s signing of former England, Arsenal and Man United striker Danny Welbeck now adding to Connolly and Zeqiri waiting in the wings, there is now genuine competition for the starting striker role to keep him on his toes.

The signature of Danny Welbeck on a free transfer is another feather in the cap of Albion’s highly regarded recruitment team and further financially prudent transfer business from the club in these uncertain times.

This one in particular however could be the best signing of the “summer” transfer window as the addition of proven quality in attacking areas appears to be just what Potter’s squad needs right now. Especially after such an excruciating period of wasted chances that has held back much of the progress made by the team during Graham Potter’s period of management.

Up Next

As this week sees the beginning of the Champions League, Albion’s men’s team have a valuable midweek off and don’t play again until the visit of West Brom on next Monday night, which is live on BBC Sussex Radio (and apparently some new Pay Per View TV thingy).

Meanwhile the Women’s team don’t play again in the WSL until they host Aston Villa on 8th November, due to international fixtures taking place next weekend being followed by the aforementioned belated Women’s FA Cup final the following Sunday.

Fear not, if you can’t wait a whole week your next Albion fix the men’s development team are in action on Friday night at home to Leicester. A win would put Simon Rusk’s ever impressive young side top of Premier League 2, after a goal scored by Reda Khadra (his second in two matches) gave them a notable 1-0 win over Liverpool. A starting eleven that also featured a 45-minute cameo from a certain Jose Izquierdo.

The Executive Derby

It has been a tough week for both Steve Parish and Paul Barber. Steve Parish, the part-owner and chairman of Crystal Palace said in a recent Times article that “Deliveroo aren’t bailing out your local café”, whilst various replies to Brighton fans messages on the subject of Pay Per View (PPV) games have been posted on Twitter, apparently from Albion’s Chief Executive and Deputy Chairmen Paul Barber, who reportedly said in one ‘fans will always want everything for free’.

So it’s a good thing for many Premier League Executives that they will ultimately be judged by their actions rather than their words. And the announcement this week of £20m in grants and additional £30m in interest free loans to League One and Two club’s to ensure their short term survival is a good step toward repairing their reputations.

That total of additional funding figure of £50m is a good start, but change is needed. The EFL’s financial model has become unsustainable as club’s from throughout its leagues overspend in search of the Premier League’s riches. Whilst the rest do their best to keep up with the competition by also overspending. Meanwhile Premier League club’s enjoy the riches of its TV broadcasting wealth.

At Brighton we are fortunate that as Paul Barber assured the fans on this week’s Q&A call the club’s future isn’t in doubt and Tony Bloom will cover any losses. But many in the EFL aren’t as lucky. We’ve already seen Wigan go close to bankruptcy this summer, if things carry on this way many more will surely follow.

Even before the Global pandemic caused this crisis, the bankruptcy of Bury was a huge warning sign about financial problems in the EFL and Macclesfield following suit this summer has its origins well before that hit. Even if this funding (along with the likelihood of subsequent amounts) tie club’s over until the crisis ends and fans are allowed back in the stadiums, long-term change is required.

As Paul Barber pointed out himself in that Q&A this week the Premier League club’s would be in a better position to help club’s lower down the leagues if fans were allowed back into stadiums. It’s a fair point, as they are the clubs losing the most revenue in real terms.

He sounded genuinely frustrated by the doubles standard that have seen a half full Palladium Theatre whilst the Ministry for Sport continues to drag their feet on elite sporting events, despite having given him the impression that the test event held by the club would lead to a return of some fans.

As the statements across the Premier League’ clubs stated yesterday: “Football is not the same without attending fans and the football economy is unsustainable without them. The Premier League and all our clubs remain committed to the safe return of fans as soon as possible.” Unfortunately for the League and it’s clubs this is out of their hands.

But even if a limited numbers were allowed in, there’d be plenty of fans who would be struggling to go back given the crisis many are experiencing in their own personal finances. Whilst both clubs have subsequently publicly committed to a phased refund of season ticket holders, this will only help some supporters. Many others who attend on a more casual basis because of other commitments and will want to watch certain matches, won’t get that same cash boost. Whilst for others it will do little to help their growing financial worries.

Whilst Paul Barber made a great case from the club’s perspective on the PPV scheme, stating it was essentially a choice for them of games on PPV or not shown on TV at all. For many supporters that choice means the same thing for them at the moment as money worries mean they simply won’t be able to pay out additional amounts for PPV games whilst already worrying about meeting existing contracted bills due to Sky and BT along with all their other bills and monthly rent/mortgage payments.

As I pointed out in a piece earlier in the week, English football sold its soul to TV broadcasters well before Barber, Parish and their fellow executives had a personal influence. Us supporters must except that we have enabled this process of excess to grow. But this doesn’t help those struggling with their own personal financial concerns.

A clubs identity and culture is arguably more than ever shaped by its executives. And whilst they haven’t done their reputations much favours this week both Palace and Albion are luckier than most clubs in this regard.

Paul Barber and Steve Parish have both shown themselves over the course of their time at their respective club’s to be brilliant representatives for their Club’s interests and welfare. And both have been commended for overseeing a refocus of resources into its community work during recent lockdown. So for me to suggest they don’t care about their club’s fans and it’s place in the local community would be disingenuous.

However, both have seemingly shown little sympathy for the crisis faced by many other EFL clubs, or for the crisis many of their fans will face in their personal finances. Nonetheless their actions in recent days show they have at least listened to some of the concerns raised and acted somewhat accordingly, even if it was hastened by Man United and a Liverpool’s cynical project big picture proposal.

The executives will all have lost a certain degree of personal standing in the last week. And so will have to excuse many fans such as myself for being sceptical of the outcome of the coming review into the strategic plan for the future structures and financing of English football.

With the lead up to this weekend’s derby being overshadowed by negotiations at an executive-level, you can excuse supporters for being a little less enthusiastic than usual. For the two public faces of those clubs, after a week of turmoil in the boardroom, a win in this Sunday’s derby match would go some way towards healing those wounds.

Restructure plans add to an increasingly tumultuous week

I started my most recent blog about the Premier Leagues recent Pay Per View scheme by suggesting that it had been a tumultuous week in the history of Premier League, and that was before the proposed plans for the restructuring of English Football were released.

Project Big Picture has been largely derided by most on-lookers, but it appears to have a great deal of consensus from those with the game. Matt Slater of The Athletic stated “If it went to a vote of the 92 clubs in the top 4 divisions, I think it gets 2/3 majority. It’s not. And it won’t. But what next?”

In the early 2000s Brighton chairman Dick Knight cashed in a number of future incentive based payments in a transfer deal with Aston Villa for the former Albion youth player and future Villa club captain Gareth Barry for £500k. These incentives included a 15% sell on clause, which after in 2009 he was sold to Man City for £12.5m effectively cost the club £1.8m alone.

But with Villa using their power to stall on payments, (one of which had to be deducted from their TV broadcasting fee and paid to Albion instead after Doug Ellis had refused to pay it) the club simply needed the cash to ensure its short term survival and couldn’t risk further delay in future payments being made effecting cash flow any further.

It’s on a similar basis I assume that the latest Premier League restructure plans have been able garner EFL support. Amongst great economic uncertainty and widespread threat of clubs going out of business throughout its three divisions, survival is paramount. Even if it is at the expense of future revenue and leads to a decrease in opportunities for success.

Part of the restructure plans would see the League Cup scrapped. A competition much derided but which forms a huge part of the EFL’s £119m a year TV deal. Yes, the increase in redistribution of the Premier league’s TV broadcasting revenue would see significantly increase revenue for EFL clubs. But at what expense?

What’s then to stop the Premier League from changing its mind and greatly reducing the distribution of funds a few years down the line?

Put simply the big clubs behind this like Liverpool and Man United are exploiting the adversity faced across English football for their own gain.

The Guardian journalist David Conn has been a rare voice in support of the plans and said “There should be a fight over ‘Big 6’ plans for Premier League power, but proposal to share 25% of TV deals with the EFL could secure the pyramid, and should not be swept off the table. The other 14 Premier League clubs have come up with nothing like it.”

It’s a fair point, I’m no fan of these plans but David’s right, intervention is needed to secure the futures of many clubs in the EFL and beyond and what are clubs like our own proposing?

No help whatsoever seemingly. Brighton’s CEO and Deputy Chairman Paul Barber has instead spent the last few weeks arguing that Premier League clubs need to protect their own interest first.

Yes Premier League club need to look after its own interest. But there is a huge difference between looking after your own business and doing so at the expense of others in your industry.

Paul Barber talks a lot about football clubs being a business, and they are. But unlike most businesses they’re hugely reliant on their competitors to increase the industry’s spectacle for their own financial success.

He’s come in for a lot of well-earned criticism lately, but it should be said that Paul Barber is a great Chief Executive and always represents the club well. However, in an industry in crisis with income plummeting across the board due to no fans being allowed in stadiums in English football’s top 6 tiers, protecting every job may sadly be a fallacy.

Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club prospers most when the entire football community prospers, losing clubs helps no one.

During the late 1990’s and 2000’s the club attracted funds from various sources to make ends meet amongst its lengthening stadium battle. Without the prosperity that the depth of the English football pyramid offers, who knows if that funding would have been forthcoming.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we all need each other a lot more than we previously appreciated. Premier League clubs need to do better to remember that.

The Enablers of Excess

It’s been another tumultuous week in the history of the Premier League. A week that was supposed to be a quiet one for club’s with the international fixtures taking away attention and giving everyone a break, has instead left a void filled by the news of the league’s new pay per view scheme.

This scheme is pretty indefensible. Especially given that most if not all its clubs have yet to pay their season ticket holders back the cash that they have already paid for 2020/21 season tickets which they most likely will never use. The last thing Brighton and Hove Albion said on the matter prior to the PPV scandal forcing a rethink was that they would use the amounts already paid for games which they could not attend to be credited against tickets bought next season’s, presumptuous you might say. Then asking those same fans to fork over more cash to watch games on TV seems far from best practice.

I’ve seen some suggest that this is a case of Premier League Club’s misreading the room, but let’s be honest they’re not even in the room with us humble football supporters. They haven’t been for a long time and yet so many of us still lap up all and sundry that they’ve throw at us and part with our hard earned cash for it.

But in a time of great economic uncertainty and mass redundancies, this scheme is at best insensitive. But let’s be honest, this kind of scheme has been coming for a while. Just this week The Athletic discussed in a recent article the potential for the launch of an online streaming service by the Premier League to allow fans to watch all its games for a monthly subscription, which many describe as an inevitability. And if they did that, I suspect many of us would subscribe parting with yet more hard earned cash.

The reality is unlike in other countries like Germany where football supporters have used organised protests and boycotts of games to limit and restrict TV broadcasters influence on their domestic game at the expense of increased revenue, English football is well past that point.

For decades English domestic football has become more and more reliant on TV broadcasting revenue, so much so that the Premier League’s project restart back in June was described by Culture, Media and Sport minister Oliver Dowden as important to “relieve the pressure on all other clubs [throughout the football pyramid]”.

And with this seemingly ever-increasing stream of TV broadcasting revenue has come ever-increasing player wages and transfer fees. Something us fans have often revelled in and encouraged rather than disgusted in the excess of. So much so that transfer deadline day has become a biannual celebration of the absurdity of the excesses that is the Premier League.

So it’s worth suggesting to all those who were expressing great vocal pressure on their club’s to sign a new player this summer and are now expressing such righteous disapproval over the greed and excess of Premier league club’s and this new PPV scheme, maybe you’re part of the problem?

Take Gary Neville for example, the Sky Sports pundit who’s spent much of 2020 complaining of his old club Man United’s lack of investment in a new defender, despite them having spent nearly £200m on existing recruits. Or Brighton fansite “We Are Brighton” and their motley crew of the growing Albion-Twitterati, who’ve spent an equal amount of time this year denouncing the clubs transfer policy for not spending big amounts of money on a proven striker.

After all, how do you think they’re paying for this at times absurd and deplorable excess, which we have been revelling in for the past two decades? The reality is us football supporters have been enabling this excess for too long, we need to take a good long hard look at ourselves first, before we criticise our club’s latest money making scheme.

This feels like a bit of a crossroads for the culture of football fandom in England. I think a lot of supporters who’ve been dedicating themselves by following their club’s home and away for years will use this break whilst games are played behind closed doors as an opportunity for a rethink of their level of dedication. Given everything since the advent of the Premier League it’s a surprise it’s taken so long, but like many things in our society at the moment, such as working from home, the pandemic has accelerated these cultural changes to happen sooner and made many to rethink their long term plans. And if many do decide to walk away, football crowds in a few years’ time will be much worse off because of it.

Diego Maradona once said of being given his first football by his uncle as a very young child: ‘That first football was the most beautiful present of my life… That day I was given it I slept all night hugging it.’ That’s what football fandom used to be about, somewhere along the line we all lost that spirit, maybe this opportunity for re-evaluation will bring it back.

Monday Musings

Everton teach us a lesson

The 2020/21 football season is going to be a weird one with so much football being packed in. As this weekend’s results resoundingly proved.

And just when it looks like most teams could do with a break, we get a round of international games with three games packed in, then we are back for more of this madness in two weeks’ time!

On top of that, it was always going to be a tough start to the season for Brighton given their opening fixtures, especially considering the amount of player turnover there has been in a very shortened summer break

Whilst Albion played well at times, scoring twice and putting Everton under some serious pressure, there were parts of the performance against Everton that weren’t great.

In particular the now worrying habit of conceding goals from set pieces and giving the ball away in our own half, but we still have plenty of positives to take away from the first 4 games and into the remaining 34 games.

Ten goals conceded from four games is a fairly poor return, but take account of the opposition and it’s not that unreasonable. Albion conceded 7 in the same fixtures last season whilst season scoring just three compared to this season’s eight goals scored. And accumulated just one point compared to the three so far this season. Clear signs of improvement.

But let’s not pretend there aren’t issues. Albion’s main fallibilities of defending set pieces and at times overplaying in defensive areas were costly for all four goals conceded and were exposed by an in form & high quality Everton team.

This Albion team is young, relatively inexperienced and many haven’t played together long. So some of the mistakes in those first four games were predictable but they can’t keep persisting if Albion really want to improve on last season’s 15th place finish.

The defeat will have been a reality check for some Albion fans as the team were well beaten by a very good side who took apart our every weakness. That’s 7 wins from 7 this season for Everton. Whilst for Albion that win over Newcastle is looking very important.

Easier games are to come, once we get to the second international break we‘ll have a better idea of how far this team has come, it’s very early to make any judgements just yet.

Powell’s team offers promise but are also taught a lesson.

There’s been lots of promise from Hope Powell’s team so far this season despite last week’s FA Cup exit. Something particularly shown by the four point picked up from their first two fixtures. But their third league game of the season against United was a big test of those signs of improvements and an equally stark reality check for Albion’s other senior side.

And unfortunately despite Kaagman, Green, Connolly and Walsh all returning to the starting line-up, Man United dominated and eased to a 3-0 victory in Sunday’s WSL match between the sides.

Like against Man City, Brighton again defended well for long periods. But you can’t expect to concede as much possession and territory every week and keep coming away with a clean sheet.

The highlight was a brilliant solo goal from the ex-Albion player and England international Alessia Russo to make it 2-0. A goal that highlighted how Man United were simply a cut above their guests, putting Albion under constant pressure who found it tough to get out their own half for long periods. With the eventual 3-0 scoreline a fair reflection of the home sides dominance.

A league cup tie against West Ham follows for Albion this week before another tough WSL game at home to Arsenal.

Deadline Day Panic

A lot of the transfer window discourse from Albion fans this time around has been very negative, a further example of the club’s disproportionately ever-growing expectations.

I personally think we’ve had a good window and would prefer no business today. Panicked deadline day deals are risky.

The club has a good first team squad and with Graham Potter in charge it looks more than enough is in place for the team to have a good season.

Yes, the club’s spent limited funds this summer, but offers for the likes of Brewster & Watkins were always likely to fall short if club’s with less frugal ownerships got involved as happened.

We must remind ourselves that the club has a relatively small budget for the Premier League and being here is success in itself.

The noticeably more frequent investment in u23 players and it’s academy is its way of the club trying to gain an advantage over the likes of Villa and others, something we have a proven success of doing in recent years.

Yes, we’ve spent big in prior years, but many of those players are still on our books. Some now filling the bench, filling the treatment table or out on loan, but all on financially limiting long term big money contracts. Can we afford to add yet another big money player to the wage book who could just as likely flop as much as he could be the “silver bullet” people have argued for? Especially amongst the current global economic turmoil and that has been caused by COVID.

It’s also a sign of the clubs plan to become financially self-sufficient whilst remaining competitive and working towards its long term goal of established top-half topflight status.

This is a more realistic long term strategy than splashing inordinate amounts of money on one player in search for short term success, Tony Bloom can’t keep bankrolling the club’s losses forever.

Disproportionately growing expectations are something I’ve written about before and that have been a problem for the club for a while, in part it’s a symptom of Albion’s success.

But I can’t help but feel they have created a rod for their own back by not managing things better.

Brighton vs Preston (2002) – A demonstration of progress and a sign of the struggles that were to come

Brighton went into their 3rd round FA cup tie at home to Preston in 2002 with plenty reason to be optimistic. Having won the Division Three title the previous season, the club were on their way to a second consecutive title in Division Two as well as promotion to the second tier of English Football.

But whilst there was optimism, they faced a tough test having been drawn at home to Preston North End of the second tier. Albion’s opponents had been catching the eye for a little while. Then managed by David Moyes (who two months later would be appointed Everton manager), Preston had narrowly missed out on a second consecutive promotion themselves the season before having lost the Playoff final to Bolton Wanderers to miss out on a place in the topflight. And they would only narrowly miss out on a playoff place this season too despite Moyes exit.

Brighton had recent lost their own highly rated young manager, after Micky Adams had left the club in the October of that season for Leicester City and had been replaced at the club by the former Leicester City manager Peter Taylor.

The team Taylor had inherited from Adams was full of players that are still well renowned by Albion supporters. No less so than star striker Bobby Zamora who during this period would enter his best goalscoring spell at the club and break a longstanding goalscoring record.

The team were on a high when they went into their first round tie at home to Shrewsbury. Having won five out of their previous six games, new manager Peter Taylor now had his feet placed firmly under the managers desk. And this one went the same way as the last three, as Albion achieved a 1-0 win with the only goal coming from Zamora.

A further five points followed for Albion in their next three league games ahead of their second round tie. This run predictably included three more Zamora goals in as many games. One in a 2-0 win away to Bury which has gone down in club legend. The in-form Zamora chipped the Bury goalkeeper from midway inside their half to score a goal ranked by many as the best he ever scored for the club.

It was a goal that showed both his brilliant technique and his superiority over Albion’s third tier opposition. By this point it was clear it was when rather than if that Albion’s star striker would get a big move to the topflight but despite interest, Albion would hold onto Zamora for another 18 months before he moved to Tottenham in the summer of 2003 following the club’s relegation straight back down to the third tier.

The game against Albion’s eventual successors as Third Division champions Rushden and Diamonds in the 2nd round saw yet another goal from Zamora open the scoring after just five minutes, heading the ball home from close range after a messy goalmouth scramble. It was his ninth in nine games and meant he broke Peter Harburn’s 42 year old club consecutive goalscoring record. A record he then extended to ten games in Albion’s 2-2 home draw with Chesterfield later that month.

This tie was being broadcast live on Sky Sports and it’s no wonder given the club’s recent success and all the national media attention that Albion’s star striker was now getting. So when I say Albion extended their lead over Rushden with a goal described by the Argus as a “wonder goal”, I know many would expect him to have been the scorer. But it was instead through the unlikely source of Albion defender Danny Cullip, with his first goal since the headed winner over Chesterfield the season before that won Albion the Third Division title. It was indeed the type of goal we’d become accustomed to see Zamora score, as Cullip neatly turned his marker on the edge of the box and fired home in the bottom corner past the helpless Rushden ‘keeper.

Rushden piled on the pressure and pulled one back with a Richie Barker penalty that made things a bit nervy. But the Seagulls secured yet another one goal victory.

It was a win that secured the club its first 3rd round appearance for 9 years. After getting to that stage of the competition for 15 straight season previous to that. The recent decade had seen the club make a succession of early exits throughout what is inarguably the darkest period of the club’s history, many of which to non-league outfits. So this was yet another sign that things were on the up at the club.

But with the drainage of the Withdean Stadium pitch in the early years of Albion’s stay there particularly poor, this was one of a number of winter games that was postponed. So rather than it being played on the traditional first Saturday in January, it was eventually rearranged to a cold Wednesday night in mid-January.

The game represented a chance for this promotion chasing Albion side to pit their wits against a prospective second tier opponent the following season. But Albion would unfortunately have to meet this challenge without either first choice ‘keeper Michel Kuipers due to injury or the on loan Simon Royce who was cup tied. So the young back up keeper Will Packham made the second of his four appearances for the club and unfortunately it wasn’t one to remember.

First Kerry Mayo saved his blushes by clearing a shot off the line but not long after the visitors took the lead when Packham had been left exposed by Mayo and the rest of the Albion defence and Preston’s newly signed French striker Erik Skora got his first goal for the club.

Albion had a chance to get back in it soon after when on loan striker Daniel Webb was brought down in the area. But the usually dependable and in-form Bobby Zamora saw his spot kick easily saved by the Preston ‘keeper.

Brighton attacked rarely and when they did it was usually without much purpose, which was fittingly summed up when a Zamora volley was so wayward it nearly hit the corner flag.

When Preston got their second from Jon Macken it simply made certain a victory that was already looking likely. But unfortunately for Will Packham it wasn’t his finest hour as he allowed the ball to bounce off his arms, underneath him and into the net. Jon Macken’s goalscoring exploits were a huge part of what fired Preston to playoff success the previous season, and he would earn himself a move to topflight Man City later that year.

After beating Sheffield United at home in the next round, Preston’s FA cup run ended with a 3-1 win away to eventual runners up Chelsea. And despite making the playoffs in three out of the next six season are still awaiting a return to the topflight after a period away that will have been 60 years come the end of this season.

For Brighton this defeat on a cold January night won’t go down in history as a memorable one. It was mostly written off at the time as one of that season’s very few off nights against superior opposition. But this comfortable defeat was perhaps an indication of the clubs struggles that would follow in the second tier next season.

At the end of the season following the club’s promotion to Division One, the fans spilled onto the Withdean pitch chanting “Brighton are back!” But it wouldn’t be for long. Despite this team that Micky Adams had built being feared by all those in the football league’s bottom two tiers, as we would soon learn, the step up to the top half during the Withdean era was one that Albion unfortunately was not capable of making.

Brighton Premier League Season preview – from transition to progression?

For many, a new football season represents a new opportunity. And for many at the Albion this season it represents the opportunity of a coming of age, where a continuing changing of the guard has been taking place amongst its first team squad.

The summer has seen many bid farewell to the club, former 2016/17 Championship player of the season Anthony Knockaert made his loan move to Fulham permanent whilst 2018/19 Albion player of the season Shane Duffy along with the club’s record goalscorer Glenn Murray were both sent out on season-long loans that will likely instigate a permanent end to their playing days with the club. And with talk of other exits possibly to follow, it may be a very different Albion we are watching this season.

That said, the transfer business was becoming an inevitable outcome as last season progressed. Despite both Murray and Duffy starting last season’s opening day 3-0 win away to Watford, Murray only started a further 6 of the remaining 37 league games compared to Duffy’s 11. Instead, last summer’s new signings Adam Webster and Neil Maupay established themselves as regulars, starting 31 and 30 league games respectively.

Albion’s strong and largely reliable defensive unit continues to evolve under Potter. Albion’s greatest strength and asset since promotion has been its defensive record and with the return of Ben White after his success at Leeds as well as the signature of Dutch international Joel Veltman, it will be hoped that they can inspire that to further improve. Particularly in games against last season’s top 5, against whom Albion conceded nearly half of their goals (25) in just over a quarter of their fixtures.

In the past Propper and Stephens have been the backbone of Albion’s midfield. But, if Albion are going to improve their record in games against the better teams in the division, how they retain and use the ball in the midfield will be key given Potter’s will to control possession and build up play patiently out from the back. As such the progression of Bissouma and Alzate will be key here. Particularly in games against teams willing to press Albion high, both Stephens and Pröpper at times struggled to retain and recycle the ball sufficiently, an attribute that Bissouma and Alzate appear more accustomed to.

But if you watched Albion across the entirety of last season, you’ll know that discussions such as these in areas of relatives strength are just splitting hairs compared to the big problem area – Goals.

Part way through the season, after a run of bad results that culminated in a home defeat to Palace and with Brighton struggling to score goals, many including myself called for Duffy and Murray to be reinstated. But Potter stuck to his guns and stood by Webster and Maupay and was repaid as both showed arguably their best form following the season’s restart.

Despite a lack of goals at the club generally, Albion’s main striker Maupay did have a good first season at the club. The step up to the topflight is tough but he adapted well and his double figure goal record is impressive. But it wasn’t a season without its issues. As with his predecessor Murray, the team are very reliant on his goals and it’s no coincidence that when he went ten appearances without scoring over the winter period, this near-coincided with a run of as many games without a win for the club.

It’s not just about taking chances though, it’s also about creating more and better chances. In Albion’s first two Premier league season’s much of the creativity required to create goalscoring chances fell on Pascal Gross’s shoulders to link the team’s fairly direct style of play. But the signing Trossard has meant the former player of the season has found himself often starting on the bench and the signature of Adam Lallana and the progression of the likes of Leandro Trossard and Alexis Mac Allister will only see the chances of that increasing.

Creating better chances and taking those which are created will be incredibly important to enable the team to convert some of the draws they had last season into wins. No team in the topflight registered more stalemates (14) last season. It’s a testament to the club’s reliable defensive record that this was the case too and some of those draws didn’t become losses, making the club’s survival from relegation much less comfortable.

It’s also a sign of how much some of Albion’s previously mentioned attacking options have flattered to deceive. Many are young and have scope to improve, but are also likely to have further dips in form as the season progresses, so the experience of the likes of Gross and Lallana will be crucial in these moments and determining whether the team can convert their combined talent into more consistent performances on the pitch.

It might be that further new signings are made to bolster the squad and aid this progression, but as the club’s constant failed pursuits for added depth in attack shows, we can’t count on it. There’s talk of both a new striker and left back in the clubs recruitment plans, but given they has stated before that they won’t panic into buying just anyone, we may have to settle with the talent that we have.

There will be a continuing trend of change as Graham Potter puts more of his stamp on the club. It’s crass to say we don’t need the players that are leaving, after all many have been key to Brighton achieving and maintaining its topflight status, but it’s a judgement call of which players have the attributes that make them best placed to implement Potter’s very different tactical ideas.

The two games against Palace defined last season in many ways. The lack of cutting edge despite such impressive dominance of possession and chances created, yielding just one point, was frustrating and gave promise and concern over what was to come in equal measure. And the manner in which safety was achieved last season following the defeat at home to Palace in February, via a very much back to basics less possession-based style approach, demonstrated that change won’t be easy nor without its bumps in the road.

That the club continues to initially loan out forsaken squad members like Duffy and Murray rather than sell them permanently, suggests they’re only tentatively optimistic of the future and lingering concerns of relegation remain. Something we must accept is always a realistic possibility for the Albion in the topflight, especially if performances like those against rivals Palace last season are regularly repeated.

But as Ed Aarons said in the Guardian’s Brighton season preview “Potter has assembled an exciting squad full of potential that looks equipped to take the next step – the question is are they capable of fulfilling that promise?” I would also add to that how much time will Potter get to meet the ever-rising expectations at the club?

Sacking Chris Hughton last season and replacing him with Graham Potter was a bold decision by Tony Bloom. The exits and diminishing playing time of some of the club’s more established players during his tenure shows that Graham Potter also isn’t afraid to make bold decisions. With Potter’s first season as manager now under his belt and the transition of the club towards his approach reaching fruition, this season will begin to tell us whether those bold decision are leading the club towards the progression which we all crave and many have begun to expect.

Local media and the Albion

Recently one of the Albion’s most ardent supporters, The Brighton Argus, has experienced a fair amount of criticism for its reporting on the club. In particular, after a news story they ran about Brighton captain Lewis Dunk being “set to sign” for Chelsea. Upon reading the story, it was clear they’d simply republished a rumour from The Sun newspaper, that has since unsurprisingly turned out to be completely false.

Not a good look for the local newspaper and the fact that it’s in part filling our thirst for Albion stories with their “Content Managers” recycling unreliable stories from other news sources is unfortunately, simply a sign of the times.

The Brighton Argus has certainly seen better days. Decreasing newspaper circulation was already a huge industry-wide concern prior to the crisis many industries now find themselves in as a result of COVID-19. Additionally a recent spate of redundancies including some of the paper’s most senior and experienced journalists has left the paper with a much smaller and on the whole less experienced group of journalists to fill their pages and in particular that thirst for Albion content.

In fact the industry in the UK as a whole is struggling, with an average yearly decrease of its entire market revenue over the last 5 years being reported as 4.4% by IBIS Worldwide recently. And with revenue from print advertising continuing to fall at a faster rate than digital advertising revenue continues to grow, things are only getting harder for the industry.

So it should come as no surprise that the sports pages have turned to such tactics. The Argus is a business after all and needs to make a profit to succeed, combine that with the fact that sport sells or that I doubt many of us have recently bought a physical copy of the Argus, let alone remember the last time we did, makes this type of journalism a somewhat inevitable outcome. It’s hardly a surprise they like many others in the print industry have turned to focusing on website clicks above all else.

The circulation and rehashing of stories in local newspapers like the Argus has been going on for a while. The Brighton Argus itself is owned by the national organisation Newsquest who own a large amount of local publications across the UK and like other such organisations are known to regularly recycle stories across its local papers in order to fill pages. Something that the stand up comedian Dave Gorman’s routine about a group of local newspapers all reporting on dogging in their local area hilariously demonstrated.

This sort of thing hasn’t been common place in the sports sections of the Brighton Argus though, whose reporting has been the go to place for Albion news for many a year, which appears to be thanks to the dedication of its hardworking sports journalists as opposed to the support they get from their employers at Newsquest. In particular during the club’s time of need in the mid-to-late nineties (prior to Newsquest’s ownership of the newspaper), the paper was a huge catalyst for the supporters fight to oust the existing owners of the club. So much so for a period the paper and it’s journalists were even banned from the Goldstone Ground.

As a result we can be confident that this type of story will be despite of the efforts of longstanding Argus Sports reporter Brian Owen, who is no doubt working hard to keep up the paper’s usual high standards of reporting, amongst these increasingly difficult circumstances.

But this particular story (which was published whilst Brian Owen was away on holiday), certainly didn’t match up to those high standards and seemingly caught the eye of the club. The club’s Head of Media Paul Camlin admitted in a recent interview on the Albion’s Roar podcast that as a result of the story he’d personally called Brian Owen to make a point of it.

The signs of local print media’s demise have been there for a while and the recent rise of online sports publication like “The Athletic” (who’ve recruited the former Argus Sports Editor Andy Naylor) is possibly a sign of where the future of “local” sports reporting lies.

But, in contrast to the Argus who have always had a vested interest in Brighton existing and succeeding to aid their own success, organisations like The Athletic don’t and would be far less interested in club’s like Brighton if and when they once again fall on harder times.

Similar local media organisations who’ve also had a vested interest in the club’s success are also experiencing difficulties. The BBC’s seemingly continuous funding cuts have led in turn to local radio and tv budgets being cut and even being rumoured as at risk of closure altogether. Couple this with the demise of many commercial local radio stations like the recently closed long time supporter of the club Juice FM, it all means local voices in the media supporting the club are becoming more limited.

It wasn’t long ago these organisations were virtually the only media interested in the club. Regularly club press conferences would be attended mostly by a small huddle of local media representatives. While supporters of the club would largely rely on the Argus’s reporting during the week and the BBC local radio’s matchday reporting to get their Albion fix. Something many of the 92 football league clubs, as well as many others further down the English football pyramid, will be well accustomed to. But it’s something that is easy to forget in these times of global media interest in the Albion as a result of being a part of the Premier League.

But if local news organisations in general continue down the route of this “clickbait” type journalism rather than the informed journalism that we turn to then for, the power and variety of other media outputs available make it likely that newspapers like the Argus will only get left behind. And I can only see that being a bad thing for supporters of their local football teams all across the UK.

If publications like the Argus and other local media aren’t around to cover the club’s bad times when they inevitably arrive, carefully managed content released directly by the club may be the only output that us fans have to rely on.

Whilst our club has an owner such as Tony Bloom as well as a host of hardworking employees whom we can trust to do the right thing on its behalf, this isn’t an issue. In recent months the club has shown itself to be at the forefront of transparency and communication with supporters.

But many supporters of other club’s around the country aren’t so lucky. And as our club’s history shows, good times don’t last forever and in many cases it’s been the local media with their ear to the ground who’ve held club’s to account when it’s been required.

In his speech after winning the SJA’s 2018 award for best regional journalist, Neil Allen of Portsmouth’s “The News” dedicated his award to all the local sports journalists, saying: “we’re there for the good times, we’re there for the god damn awful times, we’ll always be there”.

And I for one hope they’re still around to do the same if such circumstances unfortunately arise in the future, but don’t hold your breath.

Dolphins, Seagulls and Eagles

The cry of “Seagulls, Seagulls!” has become common place at Albion games for many a year, but it wasn’t always this way. It wasn’t actually incorporated as the club’s nickname until the mid-seventies. Prior to which the club had a brief dalliance with another sea-linked nickname – “The Dolphins”.

The club’s original crest featured the coat of arms of Brighton and Hove, which was used after the Second World War. As a result the Dolphin had been incorporated into the clubs crest (albeit less prominently) well before the nickname was adopted, given the Brighton element of the coat of arms features two dolphins surrounded by the six gold martlets of Sussex. The arms also features the motto “Inter Undas et Colles Floremus”, which translated from Latin to English is: “Between Downs and Sea We Flourish”. But given the modest success the club had achieved over that period it’s understandable it wasn’t incorporated by the club any further.

Brighton’s association with the Dolphin goes back at least a century when the coat of arms of the city (then town) were officially granted to them by the College of Heralds in 1897, but there are records that show even before then Dolphins were used as a symbol of the town.

Brighton’s Supporters club was regularly after a new nickname, having been known under a few different guises in its early existence. It was a vote in 1972 which lead to its adoption of the nickname “The Dolphins”. As well as its historical links to the town, the animal was a topical theme locally at the time because the dolphinarium which had opened at the Brighton Aquarium (now known as the Sea Life Centre) in 1969. Whilst the Dolphinarium was initially very popular, the changing public opinions on keeping dolphins in captivity and their cramped conditions meant it increasingly came under fire in the 1980s and the Dolphinarium was closed in 1990.

Fortunately for the club, it ensured there was no association with the Dolphinarium during the criticism the venue faced in the 80s as its association with the Dolphin was even shorter-lived. At the beginning of the 1974/75 season the club began to use a Dolphin on the front of the matchday programme and during the season the club officially became known as ‘The Dolphins’. By the beginning of the following season, a new club crest had been introduced which incorporated a Dolphin. But it would only last a season and leave the club with a large amount of Dolphin associated memorabilia to bin, after an incident said to have taken place the following season in the Bosun public house on West Street, Brighton (now better known as Molly Malones or Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy’s drinking hole).

Crystal Palace had recently adopted the nickname “The Eagles” having previously been known as “The Glaziers”. The rivalry between the club’s had been rapidly growing since a fierce opening day match of the 1974/75 season, which saw significant crowd trouble between rival fans. The rhyming nicknames would be just another step in the acceleration of tensions between the club’s.

As the story goes, prior to a subsequent match between the club’s in February 1976, a few Palace supporters started chanting, “Eagles, Eagles” to which a group of Brighton & Hove Albion fans responded with a chant of “Seagulls, Seagulls”. The club has been known as “The Seagulls” ever since and the club’s crest was changed once again to incorporate the Seagull that we now know and love in 1977.

There are various versions of this story, but there does appear to be a loose element of truth in it. That said, you may wonder how some alcohol fuelled chanting in a pub on West Street escalated so quickly, well apparently club Director Derek Chapman was in attendance, a club drinking hole for many a year it seems!

As Elizabeth Cotignola said in her piece on the Taxonomy of English Football nicknames for the website Unusual Efforts “[Nicknames have] evolved organically, historically, and in some cases through highly manufactured means, but regardless of the rationale behind them, a nickname can provide insights into where a club came from.” In Brighton’s case it appears that it is somewhat a mix of all three.

But the manufactured element of its nickname shouldn’t be discounted as a result of its suitability. The 70s was a huge boom time for the club, mostly due to the investment from then owner Mike Bamber. The adding of a more marketable nickname on top of the well-established “Albion” was no doubt all a part of to turning the club’s fortunes from a then perennial Third Division club towards its aspiration of (and eventual promotional to) the topflight.

There is a 19th-century saying “a nickname is a biography in a word” and both Seagulls and Dolphins tell you something about the history of the City and it’s football club.

Brighton’s current nickname “The Seagulls” says a lot about the importance to its identity of the Crystal Palace rivalry. Had Crystal Palace not changed its nickname to “The Eagles”, who knows what could have happened instead. The club we now know as “The Seagulls” would possibly still be known as “The Dolphins”, or maybe the club would have moved onto another sea life nickname instead. As it is, “The Dolphins” has instead become an intriguing footnote in the history of the club as well as the City.

Ben White – a story of rejection and redemption

Ben White was previously profiled along with a number of Brighton’s other U23 team last summer by Tweeting Seagull contributor @seagullsacademy, which you can read here.

Like many footballers back stories Ben White’s begins with rejection. In 2014 the 16-year old born in Poole was released by Southampton. In such circumstances do many prospective football careers end, whilst a small selection of others are formed. Ben White fortunately falls into the latter category after he was given a second chance by Brighton. As he later said himself, “The club gave me a scholarship and took me all the way until now, so I’m very grateful for that.” 

For Brighton, 2014 was largely a disaster, instigated by some terrible recruitment over the year, along with the appointment of the soon to be found wanting new manager Sami Hyypia that summer. But the addition of Ben White would soon become a rarity for much of the club’s 2014 intake, in that they would begin to see the fruits of it.

White impressed so much in his first year as a scholar for the U18s that he was soon also involved with the U21s and by end of the season had earned himself a professional contract and a place in that summers 25-man first team pre-season training camp. After starting a first team friendly against Lewes, an injury halted any further involvement with the first team and he spent the remainder of the following season again in the U18s and U21s.

He was then involved as a substitute in a number of first team pre-season games ahead of the following 2016/17 season, including as a substitute in the club’s showpiece friendly at home to Lazio.

As the season started, with Albion struggling for number in defence because of injuries to Uwe Huenemeier and Connor Goldson, White was heavily involved with the first team squad. Being named as an unused substitute for the first four league fixtures of the season and making his debut in the first round of the EFL cup in a 4-0 win over Colchester alongside Rohan Ince in the centre of defence.

White impressed on his debut as a young Albion defence earned a clean sheet and he earned himself a second start in a 4-2 win over Oxford in the second round. But the signing of Ireland international Shane Duffy for a then club record fee and the continued progression of fellow Albion youth team product Lewis Dunk meant Ben White’s involvement with the first team was limited from then on and he spent most of the season playing for Brighton’s U23s in their inaugural season in Premier League 2 and helping the team get to the final of the Premier League 2 Cup, which they lost 1-0 to Swansea City.

As the 2017/18 season drew near White was again involved in first team pre-season training. But with opportunities in the first team continuing to be limited by the increased competition for places and Chris Hughton’s tendency to not make many changes to team selection, White was sent on loan to League 2 Newport for the season to get some game time.

Whilst there, he came up against England striker Harry Kane in Newport’s impressive run to the 4th round of the FA Cup, which saw them beat his future loan club Leeds in the 3rd round. A 1-1 draw in the original tie against Spurs saw White mark Kane admirably as Newport pulled off a shock draw at home to earn a replay at Tottenham’s temporary home, Wembley Stadium.

Ben said of his time there: “The cup run was amazing, what we achieved and the manner in which we secured the game with Tottenham Hotspur was brilliant. Then we nearly beat them in the home tie, but to then play at Wembley Stadium was a dream come true. Facing Harry Kane was great for me and I feel like I more than held my own against him.”

White came to the attention of many clubs and many Albion fans during this loan spell at Newport. Whilst the club had finished a fairly underwhelming 11th place in the league, he had greatly impressed. Both to the masses in the cup run and the locals throughout the season, winning four of Newport’s player of the season awards, the Doc Heffernan Shield for Young Player of the Year; the Brian’s Tom’s President’s Cup Player’s Player of the Year Award; the Supporters’ Club Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year. County’s manager Mike Flynn described him as an “outstanding talent” and the best loan signing the club had ever made.

After a successful loan Ben White received a new contract from the club until 2021, with Brighton manager Chris Hughton telling the club’s official website: “I’m delighted for Ben, and he is another example of a young player that has worked very hard to develop his game over the last couple of years. We have closely monitored his progress at Newport, and it is very pleasing to see him adapt so well to a very competitive standard of football in League Two. I was pleased to give him his debut for this club in the EFL Cup match against Colchester last season, and he thoroughly deserves this new contract.”

The following season, after White’s success at Newport, Hughton included White as a part of the 1st team squad, becoming the effectively now fourth choice central defender. At the start of the season Chris Hughton said of his central defence options beyond his top 3, “If I am looking within, the natural ones in that position would be Ben White” Going on to say: “Particularly in that position you would want as much experience as possible but on numerous occasions, not just myself but with other clubs, a young player comes in and surprises a few. So if that opportunity arose for him then you’d want him to take it with both hands.”

But unfortunately chances weren’t forthcoming. As after an injury ruled him out of EFL cup action, and the brilliant form of Shane Duffy alongside then vice-captain Lewis Dunk, plus the experience of new signing Nigeria international Leon Balogun meant he struggled to get a look in. Some were beginning to question by this point why the club wasn’t entrusting Ben with the back-up centre back spot, but as Hughton said in the earlier quote, his is a position where experience is key. And as many young talented English footballers have found to their cost, youth team football and one season in the lower leagues doesn’t fully prepare you for the rigours of the Premier League.

As a result, another loan move looked like a sensible option for White at the time. Especially with first team chances so limited and another centre back in Dan Burn being added to Brighton’s defensive ranks that January. So White that month was sent out on loan, this time to League One Peterborough. Chris Hughton said, “This move is one which allows Ben to play regular first-team football at a good level for his development. At this stage of his career it’s important that he continues to gain as much match experience as possible. He’s someone who we’ve had around the first-team squad for the first half of the campaign, but with competition for places increased with the return of Dan Burn from Wigan, this gives him the chance to go out and play regular football at a level higher than he experienced last season.”

It was a tough start to his loan stint, which saw a 5-0 defeat in a FA Cup 3rd tie away to Middlesbrough in his first game. But despite this White was described as “a ray of light amid the Middlesbrough gloom” by the Peterborough Telegraph and given a 7 out of 10. Once again whilst out on loan White impressed with his calmness, intelligence on the ball and awareness when defending. And as the season went on, he was a key player for Peterborough as they just missed out on the playoffs. Yet more signs of greater things to come.

Part way through that season Dan Ashworth was appointed Technical director at Brighton and soon started putting his stamp on the club. In particular with the club’s summer transfer business including a number of young talented English player to add to the first team competition for places. This included Adam Webster and Matt Clarke, both signed from Championship clubs adding competition to Ben White’s position at centre back. And with Graham Potter replacing Chris Hughton as manager and keen to not change too much too soon or introduce too many of Albion’s talented young U23s into the first team, another loan move for Ben White made sense.

And he would be one of a large group of youngsters at the club that were sent on loan that season. That summer Dan Ashworth, head of loans David Weir and head of recruitment Paul Winstanley attended an event as Stamford Bridge dubbed a “transfer speed dating event”, which they attended in order to promote its young loan players to other clubs. And given the clubs U23 team finished 3rd in the Premier League 2 and the team’s top scorer Aaron Connolly won the league’s player of the season it’s no surprise there was a lot of interest

But considering how well Ben had done at Newport and Peterborough there was no real need to advertise his availability, many clubs had already taken note of his talents. And a loan move to Leeds United in the Championship was agreed for the upcoming 2019/20 season. Like a number of clubs, Leeds had been tracking White’s progress for about two years, around the period of time which had passed since they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Ben White’s Newport County in fact.

White’s U23 boss Simon Rusk said of the loan: “This is an exciting move for Ben and one that make sense in his natural development. Ben will have to adapt once again, as he joins a new group of players and experiences an increased standard of quality and athleticism in the Championship.”

Brighton were only willing to sanction a temporary exit for White to Leeds, who were initially keen on a permanent move or a loan with an option to buy in 12 month’s time. To further protect their investment Ben White was tied down to a longer term deal until 2022, a big coup for the club given there was serious talk of Spurs amongst others being interested in signing the youngster that summer.

At Brighton it was the newly appointed head of loans David Weir who’d keep the club in contact with Ben. His role at the club is to manage the relationships with the club’s loan players. A role that’s been created by the significant amount of loan deals the club are sanctioning for its youth players to encourage their development with a view of them either being promoted to the first team or sold on at a profit.

David Weir said of his role: “It’s also about meeting people who might be interested in our players and find markets and clubs who might potentially be interested in taking our players. It’s a really good tool for me – to meet a lot of clubs in a relatively short period of time and open up some new avenues.”

Ben White’s loan was a real coup, not just for Leeds to get such a sought after player, but for Ben too. Having experienced mid table finishes in League’s 1 and 2, to now get the experience at a club in the Championship with the expectations that Leeds had was huge for his development. Having narrowly missed out on promotion the season before there were now increased expectations that the club would go one better the following season. Whilst being able to work with a manager of such global and almost mythical renown as Marcelo Bielsa too, it had the potential to be a massive season in his development.

So it turned out. It wasn’t long before heads were starting to turn toward Ben’s performances. He won widespread praise on his debut in a 3-1 win over Bristol City and never looked back. Sky Sports pundit that day Louis Carey described Ben White’s debut for Leeds as “one of the best Championship debuts I’ve seen.”

David Wier told the Athletic part way through season: “You could argue that he could play for Brighton now. He has got better and better, and has done better than anyone could have expected. He’s right up there in terms of the top defenders in the Championship. We’re all thrilled by how he is doing and the progression he has made. He’s a great example of a loan programme working well.”

And Ben White has been getting praise from far and wide for his performances at Leeds with Alex Stewart of the Athletic saying: “While White’s defending is intelligent and proactive, it’s his work with the ball that marks him out as an outstanding prospect.” Going on to say “What’s clear, though, is he has the skills to succeed almost anywhere.”

Ben White certainly left a lasting mark at Leeds United. As the fans celebrated the Championship title and promotion, Ben White joined his teammates on the steps outside Elland Road to join in the celebrations and Ben revelled in the moment as the fans urged him to join the club permanently. And the subsequent #FreeBenWhite social media campaign shows just how highly the young defender is thought of by the Leeds faithful. Something all those who have been involved in his development over the past 6 years at Brighton can take great pride in.

With the season now over, according to reports in the Brighton Argus, Albion have continued their stance that they held the previous summer by telling suitors that Ben White isn’t for sale. But just because of his recent success and hype, he isn’t simply going to walk into the Brighton first team next season. As David Weir said on the clubs official website recently, the reality that Ben White now faces at Brighton is: “Now he has to come back to us and prove that he is a Premier League player. He has shown that he is good enough to be promoted out of the Championship and be consistent.”

That said, the transfer window still has a long way to go and whilst Albion have said White is not for sale, every player has a price. Whether White is playing at Brighton, Leeds or another club next season, it’s almost certain that the Premier League will be his destination for the season ahead.

Whilst there is still plenty for White prove. If his track record tells us anything, it’s that he has continued to rise to every challenge he’s faced. It’s not been a completely smooth ride for him into English football’s top level over the last six years, but there’s plenty of reasons to believe that the 2020/21 season will see further success for Ben White.