The Argus' Brighton writer offers an insight into Wanderers' next visitors to Macron Stadium
Looking to extend their unbeaten home run in the league to five games this weekend, Wanderers welcome league leaders Brighton & Hove Albion to Macron Stadium in the latest round of Sky Bet Championship fixtures.
And ahead of the game, The Argus’ Brighton writer Andy Naylor offers his thoughts to bwfc.co.uk on the Whites’ latest opponents.
bwfc.co.uk: It’s certainly been an impressive start to the campaign for Brighton. What was the general expectation before the season started?
AN: A considerable improvement on last season, but probably not enough of one to be back in promotion contention following top six finishes the previous two years.
There was another radical overhaul of the squad in the summer and Albion, unlike many of their Championship rivals, do not benefit from Premier League parachute payments.
bwfc.co.uk: Having struggled last term and finished only narrowly shy of relegation, were the club able to pinpoint what exactly went wrong?
AN: One managerial gamble too many in Sami Hyypia and poor player recruitment. They needed an experienced, safe pair of hands after another disruptive summer arising from the end-of-season resignation of Oscar Garcia.
They eventually got one in Chris Hughton, who kept them up, and they have revamped the recruitment team.
bwfc.co.uk: Who do you see as Brighton’s key players this year?
AN: There is not an obvious star but Israeli international centre-forward Tomer Hemed and explosive winger Kazenga LuaLua have both made flying starts.
The emerging central midfield partnership between Hemed’s compatriot Beram Kayal and Bolton-born Dale Stephens is among the best in the division.
bwfc.co.uk: How pleased were the club’s fans with their summer business?
AN: They were sceptical during a quiet period after an initial burst of activity. Then the return of goalscoring legend Bobby Zamora, 12 years after he last played for the club, re-ignited excitement and more signings followed. Albion, on early evidence, appear to have invested wisely this time.
bwfc.co.uk: Chris Hughton has now had a full summer with his squad after taking charge halfway through last season. What is the general consensus on him at the Amex?
AN: Hughton has lived up to his reputation as one of the game’s nice guys. He knows what is required in the Championship, having guided Newcastle to the title and Birmingham to the play-offs.
He did what was needed last season after his appointment on New Year’s Eve and has quickly moulded together a cosmopolitan group of players.
bwfc.co.uk: How do you see this weekend’s encounter going?
AN: Like most in the Championship, tight and competitive. Bolton’s heavy reverse at Huddersfield is not typical of the division.
All six of Brighton’s wins have been by the odd goal. A couple of them could easily have been draws or even defeats.