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How patience is starting to pay off for Chris Hughton's Brighton

Friday 13th January 2017
When Chris Hughton was appointed boss at Brighton and Hove Albion in December 2014, his objective was simple: to stay in the Championship. Fast forward just over two years later and the Seagulls are currently top of England's second tier.

Prior to Hughton's arrival, Brighton's achievements in recent times had been impressive. They managed to finish 10th in their first season back in the Championship in 2011, playing their home games in the brand-new stylish AMEX stadium, under the management of Gus Poyet, who lead them to the play-offs the following campaign, eventually losing to rivals, Crystal Palace, before being sacked as manager.

The decision to bring in Spaniard, Oscar Garcia, was one of risk, with the former Barcelona player having no previous experience of English football. However once again, Brighton had managed to make the play-offs, this time losing to Derby, forcing Garcia to resign at the end of the 2013/14 season.

Brighton's taste for Premier League football was lingering higher. The defeats in back-to-back play-offs left more motivation to go one better and that opportunity was given to Sami Hyypia to try and oversee as manager.

Needless to say, it didn't work out. A combination of poor signings and tactics saw the Seagulls slip into the relegation zone which lead the former Liverpool captain to resign.

After the gamble hadn't paid out for chairman, Tony Bloom and chief executive, Paul Barber, Brighton opted for a more experienced manager, someone who knew what it took to keep a side up and challenge for promotion. That man was Hughton.

The former Newcastle, Birmingham and Norwich boss succeeded the objectives, rising the south coast side to 20th in the table. Nevertheless, despite keeping Brighton up, Hughton's side's performances were not dazzling. Results were not exactly fantastic either managing only six wins in 22 league matches, none of which came in the last seven games of the 2014/15 season.

That following summer was a period of thought for Brighton's board members. Hughton had stabled the ship, impressed with signings such as Beram Kayal from Celtic and achieved his aim and that was enough for the former Tottenham defender to be given the licence to start planning the 2015/16 campaign.

The belief showed by Brighton in Hughton paid off.

The 2015–16 term saw a revived Seagulls side go on a 22 game unbeaten run from the opening day of the season until 19th December. However, Burnley managed to eventually finish first in the league with Brighton travelling to Middlesbrough on the final day of the season in search of a win that would guarantee Premier League football. Nonetheless, all Boro needed was a point and that's what they got, staying strong to secure a 1-1 scoreline that was enough to reach the Premier League.

The heartbreak hit the Sussex club hard. Despite finishing with 89 points, they had to face the prospect of the play-offs for the third time in four years. The journey to Wembley saw them have to beat Sheffield Wednesday, who finished 15 points below Brighton in the league. A 3-1 aggregate scoreline saw the Owls progress to the final, while once again, the Seagulls were left to ponder what needed to be done to reach England's top tier.

Notwithstanding the disappointment, Hughton resumed work the next day to plan for this 2016/17 season. By the end of the summer transfer window, he managed to sign experienced players such as Glenn Murray and Steve Sidwell twinned with the arrivals of Oliver Norwood and Shane Duffy, to assemble a squad that was actually stronger than one who finished third a few months earlier.

Fast forward to the start of 2017 and they are top of the league. The form of “bigger” sides such as Newcastle and Leeds have meant Hughton's work has not really received the credit it deserves.

While there is still a long way to go before the end of the season, Brighton's performances and the patience showed by the board and fans needs to be commended.

The way Hughton's side play football is a joy to watch. The unpredictability of the skilfull Anthony Knockaert mixed with the classy midfield duo of Dale Stephens and Kayal in the middle and solidarity at the back lead by Lewis Dunk makes them hard to beat and gives them a platform that if all goes well, will take them to the Premier League.

It just goes to show that with the right backing and support, just maybe your goals will be achieved.
Greg Stubley
Greg graduated with a first in Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton in Summer 2016 and has already managed to gain experience in the industry, working for companies such as Charlton Athletic and talkSPORT. Greg is currently the regular commentator on Charlton's "CAFCPlayerHD" service, bringing full-match live commentary along with Terry Smith of Addicks' games up and down the country for subscribers to listen.

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