After successive play-off campaigns, Brighton have taken a big step back this season and are currently struggling to stay in the Championship. But now four games unbeaten including back-to-back victories, the Seagulls have established a six-point gap between themselves and the relegation zone which should be enough to secure survival.
The club suffered a play-off hangover from last season, where they were thrashed 6-2 on aggregate by Derby at the Semi-Final stage. Sami Hyypia took over at the start of the season but could only manage six victories before resigning with the Seagulls in a whole heap of trouble. Chris Hughton has since taken charge and instilled a belief among the players that has been present in the past couple of seasons. He has won nearly half of his matches since becoming boss last December and has made his side extremely hard to break down and beat.
Since promotion to the Championship in 2011, Brighton had gone from strength-to-strength before the start of this season with Premier League football becoming a real possibility. An impressive first season back in the second tier led Brighton to their highest finish in English football for over 20 years. The 2012/13 saw the club finish fourth and enter the Play-Off stage at just the second time of asking.
They finished just four points off an automatic promotion spot and a 2-0 defeat to rivals Crystal Palace in the Play-Offs was still seen as an extremely satisfying season (despite ending in disappointment). The following campaign was equally as successful but once again the Seagulls fell short in the Play-Offs, being outplayed by Derby on this occasion. This season might have been a big step back at this stage but the amount of progress in recent years cannot be understated.
Under Chris Hughton Brighton have a vastly experienced and competent manager, especially at this level. He led Newcastle to the Championship title in 2010 before taking Birmingham to the Play-Offs in 2012. Hughton took Norwich to an 11th place finish in the Premier League in 2013 but was ultimately sacked prior to the club’s relegation the following season.
He has now started to turn around Brighton’s fortunes where survival was the only thing to be achieved this season. A couple more good results should see the club safe and with the next couple of seasons in mind, Brighton have a manager that can once again see them challenge for a Play-Off spot and beyond.
Key players were let go in the summer with Leonardo Ulloa and Will Buckley both moving to the Premier League with Brighton making over £10million from these two sales. Despite this there is still a lot of quality in the squad that should be competing at the other end of the table. With the likes of David Stockdale, Sam Baldock, Beram Kayal, Joao Carlos Teixeria, Aaron Hughes and Inigo Calderon, Brighton certainly have more than enough to survive and perhaps challenge for promotion next season with a few more additions.
Considering the influence Chris Hughton has on the team as well, this season should be forgotten about once it ends and the club can once again build to finally achieving their Premier League dream.