Daniel White caught up with new Albion manager Sami Hyypia to discuss the club’s aspirations
As Sami Hyypia walked around the new Brighton & Hove Albion training ground he was struck with one overriding impression: Ambition.
The club appointed the former Liverpool defender as their new manager in June following the resignation of Oscar Garcia and, during the process, was shown around the £93m AMEX Stadium and the recently opened state-of-the-art training ground in Lancing.
Designed to meet the Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan, the Seagulls clearly have the country’s top flight in their sights.
“What I especially liked about these guys was the ambition that they have,” begins Hyypia. “When I came to see the training ground and the stadium for the first time I new that they were serious and that was one of the main reasons that I am sitting here.”
After two successive defeats in the Playoff semi-finals the club are on the verge of promotion from the Championship and Hyypia, who signed a three-year contract at the AMEX, is confident that if the whole squad work together, then this season will end with success.
“The club has had two good seasons in the past two year and I want to make it even better and I will do everything I can to match that and maybe go a step higher,” he explains. “I want us to win every game and I think that if everyone in the team has that kind of mentality and that kind of attitude then I will be a happy man.”
Throughout their time at the AMEX the club has been praised for their ability to play attractive, possession football, however, the former Finland captain will be choosing productivity over style.
“Possession in general is only a number for me but what you do with the possession, that’s more important for me,” he confesses. “There’s not many teams who can go into the game saying that if we score one more than the opposition then we’ll win but the attacking play is important because without goals you can’t win.”
With a number of players leaving the club this summer, including fan favourites Tomasz Kuszczak, David Lopez and Matthew Upson, a summer of recruitment is in store and, during the process, Hyypia will be looking for quality over quantity.
“For me, age is only a number,” he says. “An old coaching legend in Germany once said that there’s no young and old players, only good and bad players so I think my mentality’s the same. If we get three and the three will help the team go forward then that’s enough, I don’t think you have to sign a player just to sign a player; it needs to have a purpose.”
Hyypia, 40, was always known as a leader during his career on the pitch, captaining all of his club sides and the national side at times and it was an easy transition for him to move into management.
The former Willem II player cut his managerial teeth in Germany with Bayern Leverkusen, enjoying a successful 18 months in charge before being sacked after a run of one win in 12 matches, however, he is confident that he can use his experiences to better himself and Albion.
“It’s great to be back in England, where I spent most of my playing career. As a player I observed what the manager was doing, what the coaches were doing and learned that way,” he reflects.
“My opportunity was unusual, in that 10 months after I finished playing I was managing a Bundesliga club but that was a good school for me and I think that in practice you learn more than when you are at school. I’m happy that I went through the bad period and that I’ve learnt a lot from the bad period and I feel more ready now.”
With an honours list that can match near enough everyone in the modern game, including two FA Cups, two League Cups, two Super Cups and the Champions League, Hyppia could be expected to play off his former glory, yet, he has no plans to take his foot off the gas.
He says: “I hope all the players have heard of me and know a little bit of what I’ve done as a player but that doesn’t matter, all that matters is what I do as a manager, that’s what counts and hopefully I can bring some good things to the team and the individual players.”
With pre-season already in full flow and expectations high across the city, Hyypia is unlikely to have the time to begin sight seeing in his new home town but to him, all that matters now is seeing the right sights on the field.
“The area I only know what I’ve heard from other people, about the club I’ve heard only positive things and all my English friends who text me after the appointment said that it’s a great area to live, so everything is perfect now, we just have to make it perfect on the field as well.”