Rusk says hard work can see Albion youngsters make first-team push

Brighton under-23 winger James Tilley celebrates scoring against Barnet in the Carabao Cup earlier this season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Brighton under-23 winger James Tilley celebrates scoring against Barnet in the Carabao Cup earlier this season. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Albion under-23 manager Simon Rusk believes hard work will be the basis for the club’s young players to push into the first team.

The Seagulls’ under-23 side enjoyed an excellent 2017/18 campaign as they won promotion into Premier League 2 Division 1 and lifted the Sussex Senior Cup after beating League Two Crawley Town in the final.

James Tilley, Jayson Molumby, Aaron Connolly and Max Sanders all featured in first-team squads last season – Tilley scoring the only goal in a League Cup win over Barnet – while Christian Walton, Ben White and Jordan Maguire-Drew were among those to enjoy loan spells away from the Amex last year as their development continued.

Rusk says hard work and staying grounded will give the club’s youngsters the best chance of playing in the first team under Chris Hughton.

Opportunities are most likely to come in cup competitions in the short term, rather than the Premier League, and Rusk said: “With player development it is quite complex as it can happen at different stages. Form can come and it can go for a young player, so it’s hard to put a number on how many I expect to come good.

“What I would say is that we have quality players that are progressing nicely. I haven’t got a crystal ball but if they keep on working hard, keep training hard and stay grounded they’ll have the best possible chance.

“Sometimes it’s a bit of misfortune that gives you that opportunity, like a first-team player getting injured.

“The key is if that opportunity arises, the first-team manager or first-team staff will be willing to put you in. You’ve got to be patient and work hard and wait for that opportunity.”