There was the city of Norwich. There were Southampton and Hull City. There was even, spectacularly, Leicester City, for a period: clubs that exceeded their weight by buying well, developing players and producing impactful individuals that Champions League-level teams would inevitably look to spend big on.
Each of them discovered that it only takes a couple more sales or a summer of not being able to reinvest well to get away from their upward arc. Sometimes it’s not even that; just a year or two No Selling at the right time to maximize revenue and renewal opportunities can be expensive.
But the latest club to rise thanks to some magnificent recruiting and training work seems to be established not only with the current crop, but also with the next batch: Brighton and Hove Albion, a team that is flying this season and looks well prepared. for a chance at European football next season.
Currently sitting in eighth place, the Seagulls are potentially in a somewhat false position; Heading into Thursday’s game against Manchester United, they have three games left with Liverpool, Aston Villa and Tottenham ahead of them. Two wins from those and they would be sixth at worst, a Europa League place within arm’s reach.
There is no fluke here, as Brighton impressed many, not only with their brand of football but also with the number of players they brought from rather less typical places many Premier League clubs choose to work. it gave them a platform to succeed and become something close to household names. The double-edged sword is that it is possible, even likely, that this very platform will make them targets elsewhere this summer, but Brighton are already prepared to survive that.
The Gulls have felt the impact of doing well and losing key figures more than once in recent months. Graham Potter, in particular, was lured off the bench to Chelsea; that didn’t go well for him, but Roberto De Zerbi has shown a quick ability to step in, not miss out on the progression of the season and even improve the team in certain areas. . Leandro Trossard is also gone, and next in line is expected to be midfield duo Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo.
There may be others. It may be an exaggeration to say that Brighton won’t mind, but they certainly won’t be unprepared.
The current regular lineup already has a handful of players alongside the big name performers, and the established and consistent faces, who have now had a good bed spell and, game after game, look like match winners. .
Kaoru Mitoma is the best example, the winger commanding attention with his non-stop dribbling, while Pervis Estupinan has improved remarkably throughout the campaign. Enock Mwepu might well have been in the same group if he hadn’t been forced to withdraw earlier this year due to a medical condition.
But even beyond that core group, Brighton next collection of would-be first-team stars are making their impact felt.
Chief among them is Julio Enciso. The 19-year-old striker isn’t too different from Mitoma in terms of pitch area and impact, although he plays differently. An almost perfect transition player, the Paraguayan attacks the left channel with speed, can carry the ball well, is aggressive and has composure on his last ball. Two assists against Wolves mean he has contributed a goal scored or created every 97 minutes this league campaign, a small sample size to be sure, but an indication of what De Zerbi is contributing.
In a more archetypal role of number 9, fellow teenager Evan Ferguson appears to have the confidence and technical ability to score the goals the Seagulls have been missing for so long, while Ireland must be delighted at the prospect of finally having a real goalscorer in the ranks once. more also The 18-year-old already has his first outright strike on the international scene, to go with four in the English top flight.
Two other South Americans also look like interesting prospects. January signing Facundo Buonanotte is just 18 and has also been given playing time, mostly in a supporting role of number 10, while 20-year-old Jeremy Sarmiento already has World Cup experience with Ecuador , even if an injury has ended his participation this season at club level. Meanwhile, Billy Gilmour and Tariq Lamptey could be out of favor and out of the spotlight this year, as they both have just three league starts, but both are just 21 and 22 respectively – there’s plenty of room for growth.
It could well be that not a single one of that half dozen players is in the XI on Thursday night. But that’s also the point: Brighton have a team that can compete against Man United and have the confidence to win the game.
And, come the end of the season, should a couple of that starting squad leave, there is every reason to suspect that there will be plans in place to not only replace them, but to keep the club’s upward progression going in style.