Ian Hart: Is now the time for Brighton & Hove Albion optimism?

Brighton boss Graham Potter
Brighton boss Graham Potter

Brighton’s third season in the Premier League kicks off on Saturday with a visit to FA Cup runners-up Watford.

In some ways a carbon copy of last season’s opening fixture, but on the flip side a season opener which also heralds huge changes at the club.

The rights and wrongs of former manager Chris Hughton’s dismissal have been debated ad nauseum, unfortunately, as much as I liked him and will never forget what he achieved at the Albion, it was time for him to go.

And now, just as the Albion did at the start of their third season in Division One in 1981, they look forward to the upcoming campaign with a new manager in the dugout in Graham Potter - it was Mike Bailey 38 years ago after he’d replaced the legendary Alan Mullery - and the prospect of a whole new attacking formation.

For the detractors who continually point out that the former Swansea boss is untried at this level, case in point, every manager since the dawn of professional football in this country has been at some point untried at this level, in fact, untried at any level!

Potter has hit the ground running since his arrival at the Amex in the close season, as commented in this column last week.

The shipping out of Anthony Knockaert on loan to Fulham spoke volumes, as have the incoming transfer acquisitions.

Central defender Adam Webster arrives from Bristol City for a club record £22million, reportedly becoming one of the highest paid players in the club’s history.

That now points that Potter will adopt his favoured attacking formation of 3-5-2, with a back line of Lewis Dunk, Shane Duffy and Webster.

Highly rated Belgian attacking midfielder Leandro Trossard was another club record purchase at the time arriving for £18m, with the trio of exciting signings being completed this week with French striker Neal Maupay joining from Brentford, having scored 41 goals in the Championship over the last two seasons.

So after flirting with relegation almost until the very end, in fact, some might argue that with Cardiff being on the end of some horrendous decisions the Albion well and truly had the rub of the green, is now the time for optimism for the Albion faithful?

Clearly not if you’re a bookie or an expert, with Albion being amongst the favourites for relegation, so can I make a case for a hat-trick of Premier League survivals for the Albion?

The attacking style apparently favoured by Potter will be welcomed by the Amex faithful. As in previous seasons taking out the 42 points against the top seven, which are effectively a ‘free-hit’ for the Albion and any points gained from those 14 games is a bonus, there’s still 24 games - 12 at home - that the Albion deem competitive fixtures.

Owner Tony Bloom is a gambler as we all know and some see Potter’s appointment as a huge punt, but life is all about taking chances and I think whilst it will take a little bit of time for it all to gel, the Albion will benefit from a completely new style.

The 17th-placed finish was too close to call last season, but 13th or 14th come May will clearly be looked upon as a success - that’s what I think the Albion will do.

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