Brighton in pole position for promotion
Brighton & Hove Albion have put themselves in a wonderful position to make it fourth time lucky and secure promotion to the Premier League after an excellent start to the 2016/2017 campaign. The 2-0 win at the Amex Stadium against Leeds on Friday, courtesy of penalties converted by Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed, not only maintained the Seagulls’ hold on second spot in the table behind leaders Newcastle, but also extended the team’s unbeaten run in the Championship to fourteen games. It is testament to the work that Chris Hughton and the backroom staff have done to lift the players after the double heartbreak of missing out on automatic promotion by just two goals and then losing to Sheffield Wednesday in the play-offs last season, with the team showing great hunger and desire to make the dream of playing in the top flight a reality.
Brighton may be the in-form team in the Championship and ranked as strong favourites for promotion with Betway, but there is still a long way to go before all the hard work put in over the last few years to transform the club into one capable of challenging for promotion pays off. Reaching the play-offs in three of the last four seasons illustrates that Brighton are undoubtedly on the up, and with the infrastructure in place to make a real push, it may be a case of when, not if, the Seagulls grace the Premier League. There is certainly a feel-good factor around the Amex Stadium, with the team playing good football and getting the results to go with it. It remains to be seen if Brighton can maintain the positive vibe from a while longer; the team made an equally strong start last season, only to falter after losing 3-0 at home to Middlesbrough before Christmas.
The return of fans’ favourite Murray has proved to be a shrewd move from Hughton, with the striker netting twelve goals in twenty appearances as he has made his presence felt. He has been accompanied by some excellent performances from Anthony Knockaert, while another summer signing, Shane Duffy, has formed a strong partnership with Lewis Dunk at the heart of defence. The latter has proved pivotal in a backline which have conceded just eleven goals in twenty games, and with goals flowing at the other end, Hughton appears to have the perfect recipe for success. Gaining promotion would have a big impact on the club and the area as a whole, with the Premier League likely to boost the local economy and provide the South Coast with another top-flight club. Playing against the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool is the ultimate goal, and although Brighton could find themselves listed alongside them in next season’s Premier League odds with Betway next season, just being in the same league as those teams is what Brighton have been striving for over the past few years.
There can be no question that the Championship is one of, if not the hardest leagues to get out of, but with upcoming fixtures against Blackburn, Birmingham, Queens Park Rangers and Cardiff on the horizon, the Seagulls should feel confident about their chances of remaining unbeaten during the festive period. Hughton will know how important it is to ensure his team keep their feet firmly on the ground, but the steel and tenacity to make amends for last season’s disappointment could continue to carry Brighton on a crest of a wave towards the Premier League.
By Stephanie Broster