Brighton have a genuine chance of silverware this season and could compete in Europe next term for the first time in their history.
They lie seventh in the Premier League and have reached the FA Cup semi-finals, where they will face Manchester United, after beating Grimsby 5-0 at the Amex Stadium.
Here, the PA news agency explains the unlikely success story on the south coast.
Brighton already had Roberto De Zerbi in mind long before Chelsea came calling for Graham Potter. And rather than regress without their previous manager, if anything the former Shakhtar Donetsk boss has taken the team to another level. The chances are, should a ‘bigger’ club come in for the Italian, that they have also earmarked his eventual successor. And more often than not – Sami Hyypia notwithstanding – they get it right.
Sussex in Bloom
Owner Tony Bloom has invested millions in the club, both on playing and coaching staff and a state-of-the-art training ground. Bloom was a professional poker player and he still holds all the cards. Having already cashed in his chips in selling Yves Bissouma, Marc Cucurella, Ben White, Leandro Trossard and Dan Burn to the tune of almost £200million over the past couple of years, Bloom refused to fold when Arsenal bid £70million for Moises Caicedo. The Ecuador midfielder has since signed a new contract, which if nothing else, ensures Brighton protect their asset.
The players who left have been replaced with low-cost arrivals such as Caicedo, Joel Veltman, Tariq Lamptey, Kaoru Mitoma and World Cup-winner Alexis Mac Allister, who have not only cushioned the blow but largely proved to be an upgrade. The vultures will doubtless be circling again this summer but Bloom, if he wants to sell any, will get top dollar while the scouting team will simply unearth the next batch of hidden gems.
The form of captain Lewis Dunk and winger Solly March, who have been at their hometown club for more than a decade, has led to calls for England recognition. De Zerbi has turned Dunk from an old-school centre-half into a forward-thinking, ball-playing defender, while March has flourished under the new system, scoring eight goals since the World Cup break.
Evan sent youngsters
Evan Ferguson has made a huge impact in his breakthrough season. The powerful striker, still only 18, has seven goals and three assists in his 16 appearances so far, including a superb double against Grimsby, and looks every inch a superstar in the making. Yasin Ayari, Julio Enciso and Facundo Buonanotte are also exciting young talents to watch. The future looks bright for the high-flying Seagulls.