Brighton: how close is Chris Hughton to being a Premier League Jeremy Corbyn?

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone and Brighton manager Chris Hughton greet each other ahead of a Pre Season Friendly between Brighton & Hove Albion and Atletico Madrid at Amex Stadium on...

Star man: Anthony Knockaert.

On the pitch

The French winger tore defences apart last season, the key creative force in a brilliant promotion campaign. There does remain a strong whiff of “too good for the Championship, maybe not good enough for the Premier League” about him, though – will he be able to dispel that?

 

Biggest summer buy: Transfer powder has been kept relatively dry by a club who preach sensible progression and growth, but an upgrade between the sticks was required and secured, with the Australian Matthew Ryan recruited from Valencia. Distribution is among his key attributes, making him super‑trendy in the modern goalkeeping world.

Breakthrough season: Solly March is not new to Brighton fans but perhaps is to the wider world. March is a whippet of a winger whose career was almost derailed by a horrible knee injury in 2015. He returned fighting fit last season and could make his name this term.

Bad boy: The defender Lewis Dunk isn’t shy of a yellow card, but the player who committed the most fouls in the Championship last season was Glenn Murray, a resolutely old-school striker who enjoys a dig here and there. Defenders facing him should keep an eye out for low-flying elbows.

Boo boy: The Brighton fans’ relationship with their players is so adorably close that booing anyone for poor performance seems unlikely. It would be like someone booing their cat. But let’s go with the first player to demand a transfer if they’re struggling in January. Erm … Knockaert?

Destination Russia: Relatively slim pickings. Ryan should be there for Australia, Tomer Hemed and Beram Kayal have an outside chance of making it for Israel, but Jiri Skalak’s Czech Republic have plenty of work to do. Next summer could be a quiet one for Brighton.

Glass half-full: Knockaert lights up the Premier League, nice guy Chris Hughton wins games with his pure affability, everyone says: “What a lovely stadium they have,” and they’re comfortably safe by March.

Glass half-empty: The frailties that saw them chuck away the Championship title emerge, the relative lack of spending bites them hard, Hughton smiles through a long series of defeats and nice guys really do finish last.

Off the pitch

The manager: A fan of old-fashioned tactics, a history of left-leaning politics and a reputation as Mr Affable: Chris Hughton isn’t quite the Jeremy Corbyn of the Premier League, but he’s not a million miles away. A pleasant demeanour and fondness for 4-4-2 will only get you so far, but he’s got rather more than that and might surprise a few people. Like Corbyn, perhaps.

The owners: Part of the heartwarming nature of Brighton’s promotion is that Tony Bloom, owner and benefactor, has been a fan of the club since he was in short trousers. You can often find Bloom, a property investor and professional gambler, not in the directors’ box but with the fans, in the away end.

Steph Fincham’s fan’s view:We’re well-prepared after years spent planning for this. The squad has talent: Knockaert, Stephens and March, plus experienced heads like Murray. Prediction: 10th.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Nick Miller, for The Guardian on Friday 11th August 2017 12.00 Europe/London

Title odds 1,500-1

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