After two days of exhausted Brighton had lost to Sheffield Wednesday in last season’s play-off semi-finals, the club announced that the manager, Chris Hughton, has signed a new four-year contract. In the glow of apparent failure of this type of thing that could have been regarded as makrooh by some, but not Brighton. Hughton is part of a plan, one that has brought them to the Premier League.
It has been a plan 20 years in the making. The year Zero of Brighton was in 1997, when he won a draw in the last matchday of the season against Hereford to stay in the Football League. It was a point that saved not only downhill, but very possibly of forgetfulness, the club have been run in the ground and out of your old home. During the next two decades, the former chairman Dick Knight, followed by the current president and benefactor, to the tune of almost £250 Tony Bloom – the childhood of fans both – except for what was then a shell of a club, then oversaw the transition.
Promotion to the Premier League is our reward, says Brighton Chris Hughton
The defeat against Sheffield wednesday was Brighton’s third play-off semi-final defeat in four years, the difference now is that the previous two had been of the respective managers final games in charge. Gus Poyet, having taken One of the League to the play-offs, he was fired due to an apparent breach of contract, then a year later his replacement, Oscar Garcia, resigned. Hughton came to the end of 2014, after one of their a few of my steps, the appointment of Sami Hyypia, had been corrected reasonably quickly, and set them back on the right path.
When players talk of Hughton, the majority refer to her calm authority, which is a constant in the head when pressure presents itself. It has become a cliché to say that he is stronger than his good guy reputation suggests but it does however form a large part of why it is successful and respected. “Never get too high emotionally, but you get his point of view when you don’t do the work,” the midfielder Dale Stephens says. Hughton seems to be the perfect administrator of Brighton, one of whose unobtrusive, ambition and the ability not to panic when others might, coincides with the own.
After last season’s disappointment, when they led the division for a couple of months, rebounded from a winter rut and faded in the last, Hughton and those above it, however, recognized that it was a good thing, and the patience was all that was needed. Given the strength of the teams relegated from the Premier League, which could have been considered as a game of chance, but, if it was, then, has paid off handsomely.
Already a squadron of the fine is added to judiciously, Shane Duffy come from Blackburn to the shape of the central division of the defensive partnership with Lewis Dunk, while Glenn Murray returned to add a couple of more goals up front. The summer of the biggest task was to keep key talent: Stephens wanted to leave for Burnley, but six of the offers were rejected, while Newcastle made moves for the sparkling Anthony Knockaert.
Knockaert is Brighton’s star man, the Championship’s best player, the blink of an eye and devastatingly effective end that can often seem like a very frustrating team-mate to play with. Knockaert often most difficult option, the path of most resistance by ignoring the players in considerably better positions. But your belief that it is better for him to keep the ball and do things on your own is usually justified: against the Wolves on good Friday, who twice headed towards the goal with the colleagues madly flapping their arms for a pass, but two times that I went ahead and scored himself. It is difficult to argue that a player is being selfish when he can win games on his own.
Chris Hughton added to your Brighton squad wisely last summer, bringing in Shane Duffy and Glenn Murray. Photo: Mark Kerton/Action Plus via Getty Images
Knockaert is a rare concession to individualism in a team that moves as a collective. The French win games, but an explanation more prosaic of his success is the strength in depth. Last season’s player of the year, Beram Kayal has missed large chunks of this campaign and Brighton, has barely blinked. The duties on the flank opposite to Knockaert have been shared by the varied talents of Jiri Skalak, Jamie Murphy and Solly March. Three of the strikers – Murray, Tomer Hemed and Sam Baldock – have reached double-digit figures, in addition to Knockaert 15. Hughton the accession of a fairly traditional 4-4-2 system is not very fashionable, but has found a formation to suit your players, without a doubt, one of the absolute basics of good management.
Brighton play efficient football, not the game direct from the ex-Norwich manager Alex Neil suggested they did earlier in the season, but it is not often ruffled. That may be functional but that is what is required to get out of the Championship. Because of this, along with their individual talents, Brighton are perhaps more than any other side to win matches when playing badly: for example, that stands out is the victory of Birmingham, in December, when goals in the last 10 minutes from Murray and Knockaert took a 2-1 victory. After Hughton admitted they had been poor for 80 minutes, but few care.
Then there is the old notion of team spirit. The most successful sides in mind the image of that intangible idea of unity, but in Brighton it seems genuine and, perhaps more profound than that of the majority. The history of the squad to travel to France to attend the funeral of Knockaert’s father is well-known, but it is no less remarkable, or valuable. “Because of what the club did for me, I could stay here all my life,” Knockaert said about this act of solidarity, which he later described as “the best time of my life”.
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring the first goal in the 2-1 home win over Wigan Athletic that put Brighton in the Premier League. Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
The sense of unity that seems to extend to the rest of the club. It doesn’t hurt that all the staff, not only the players, will receive a bonus of the promotion is secured. For trips of Bloom is often seen not in the team coach and the director of the box, but between the fans on the train and on the terraces. In February, the TV cameras picked up the celebration of a Murray goal against Brentford with the misalignment of wonder of a child. This is a club where the lines between those in the stands, on the pitch and behind the scenes are blurry.
“As an achievement for this club, this is probably the biggest of the biggest, I should say,” said Hughton recently, when asked if this promotion would eclipse the one he won with Newcastle in 2010. Brighton and Newcastle established themselves as the two some time ago (the last time someone made a pause in the automatic promotion places in October), but certainly in the last few weeks, Rafael Benitez in the party seemed to be a little gloomy trudge to your promotion. For they are simply trying to reach the minimum that is expected of them: when they go up, one feels that it’s going to be more of a relief than anything else. For Brighton, their joy is reflected in 20 years of effort and a reward plan.