Where Brighton must strengthen and why Graham Potter should only be judged this time next year
So the most unique campaign in Brighton's 119 year history draws to a close and with just Sunday’s trip to Burnley remaining, the Albion are mathematically safe.
A record equalling fourth season in the top flight was guaranteed with Tuesday night’s goalless draw against Newcastle United.
It’s fair to say, that had fans been allowed in the stadium, legions of them would have vacated their seats long before the final whistle, which would have been followed by the traditional end of season lap honour.
Thankfully it wasn’t required, and now with a smaller than usual ‘preseason’ the 20/21 campaign will start sometime in September.
So looking back on the longest season ever, ultimately the Albion have succeeded, they’ve survived another year in arguably the hardest league on the planet.
This column, which now enters its 20th football season, is merely my opinion, and during this last campaign I have at times expressed concerns about Albion head coach Graham Potter.
On one occasion I stated, he wasn’t the ‘right fit’ for the Albion and should move on in the summer.
U-turns are normally reserved for various politicians or Starsky and Hutch, so I’m not going to do that, what I will do is give Potter the benefit of the doubt.
In this very column more than 12 months I made it clear I was not happy with way the departure of former boss Chris Hughton was handled.
I knew he was going before he did, before they kicked off their final home game against Manchester City. The news arrived via a text from a friend sitting with a Scottish football club director in a Spanish bar.
Graham Potter was the name offered as the replacement, whilst he was still in a job at Swansea City. Not good, and not how I would like the football club I support to operate, but that’s done now.
In Potter’s first season there have been encouraging signs, an emphatic win against Spurs, a memorable first ever ‘double’ against Arsenal, and some exciting attacking football at times.
Tempered against that was prior to lockdown, the Albion were the only professional football team in England not to have won a game in 2020.
In Potter’s defence, to a degree this is not his team, he inherited it. He should actually be judged this time next year, with the returning Ben White from Leeds and possibly up to five new quality signings, who the manager will have identified to the recruitment team. That will be the acid test.
Obviously this will mean existing players moving on, but that’s football. Players come and go, like managers, whoever does depart everyone will wish them well and thank them for their efforts.
Two players I think the Albion need is a proven goal scorer, preferably at Premier League level but no lower than the Championship.
The other is a midfield creator, a player who puts his foot on the ball, looks up and makes things happen, and in the process electrifies the stadium.
Showing my age now, but a 21st century version Gerry Francis, who had he stayed injury free, would have been one of the greatest midfielders this country ever produced. (younger readers may require Google at this point)
After that, it’s strengthening in various positions, and on the subject of departing players, is it decision time re Lewis Dunk? Do the Albion stick or twist?
Cash in on Dunk or give him the improved contract that makes him the Albion version of Matt Le Tissier or Sir Trevor Brooking? Does Ben White play alongside him or ultimately replace him?
Certainly food for thought and another reason why we all love football.
And finally prediction time for the encounter at Turf Moor, especially for all my Burnley supporting friends. I actually think the Albion, now safe, will play without fear and with fluency and end the season with all three points, Burnley 0 Albion 2.