Sami Hyypiä faces the most-important game of his short spell as Seagulls manager tonight.
Sami Hyypiä faces the most important game of his short spell as Seagulls manager tonight (Friday), knowing anything other than a win will see supporters’ calls for his sacking intensify.
Under his tutelage, Brighton have triumphed in just three of their 20 league games to date - giving Hyypiä a win rate of just 15%.
Only rock-bottom Blackpool have chalked up fewer wins (two) and the Seagulls find themselves mired in the Championship relegation zone and look devoid of confidence.
A humbling defeat at Derby County last time out provided a sobering illustration of just how far the Albion have fallen since last season’s tilt at promotion. Derby, the Albion’s conquerors in the play-off semi-final, sit top of the table and a mammoth 20 points ahead of the Seagulls this campaign having kept the majority of last season’s squad intact. Brighton, on the other hand, have undergone a wholesale rebuilding process having lost not only their manager, but also an array of players who proved so key to last term’s successes.
That high turnover of star talent cannot be overlooked when assessing who is at fault for the Seagulls’ poor start to the season.
Players recruited as replacements for outgoing stars like Leo Ulloa, Matthew Upson, Will Buckley et al have not had the desired impact. And injuries to players like the experienced Andrew Crofts have not helped the Albion’s cause.
It is, however, the manager upon whom the focus for failure ultimately falls.
Nobody will be as aware of that as Hyypiä himself. The former Liverpool centre-half has spoken of his intention to keep fighting amid increased scrutiny on his selection and tactics. Against Derby, his decision not to start with a specialist defensive midfielder saw the Seagulls come unstuck within the opening 25 minutes. That resulted in heavier criticism than an away loss at table-toppers would have attracted in other circumstances.
Indeed, there is a growing section of the Seagulls support who believe Tony Bloom, the club chairman, should call time on Hyypiä’s reign.
That seems unlikely - at least for the near future. Hyypiä survived the defeat at Derby and a board meeting this week came and went with Hyypiä remaining at the helm.
It seems decision-makers at the club believe the manager can turn things round – or at the very least deserves a little longer to prove his worth.
A win against Millwall tonight would be a start. Hyypiä, though, will again be without club captain Gordon Greer while Sam Baldock also looks likely to miss out. Adrian Colunga is available after a one-match suspension.
Millwall are themselves on a wretched run of form and without a win in six games and a 5-1 home defeat against Middlesbrough last time out.
Albion team news
Likely line-up: Stockdale, Bruno, Dunk, Hughes, J. Bennett, Forster-Caskey, Ince, March, Gardner, E. Bennett, Bent.
Likely subs: Walton, Calderon, Rea, Holla, Teixeira, McCourt, Colunga.