Q&A With Brighton & Hove Albion

  • September 25, 2015 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/3e82b

Chris Field answers our questions ahead of the 19th meeting between Bolton and Brighton & Hove Albion at Macron Stadium.

Wanderers go into the game on the back of a 4-1 defeat at Huddersfield Town last Saturday, while Albion held Wolverhampton Wanderers to a goalless draw at Molineux on the same afternoon.

In our latest edition of Q&A, Chris (@chrisfield25) shares his views on Chris Hughton's ability to lead Brighton into the Premier League, why things will only improve for Wanderers under Neil Lennon, as well as which former Seagulls player could prove to be a threat for the home side.

Q: Last season was a struggle for Brighton, as they avoided relegation by six points, and many had tipped them for another difficult campaign. However, the Seagulls lead the early Championship table and are currently 2nd-favourites for promotion. What has changed over the course of the summer at the AMEX Stadium?

A: I think there's a few slight changes but I think there is one main chracterisitic - confidence. We're a side playing with confidence, with the genuine belief that we can win any game, whilst still taking each by merit and game by game.

Last season we weren't as bad as the table suggests - I genuinely believe. Sure, it was as poor as we had been for a number of years but we certainly didn't get much luck - on or off the field! Chris Hughton came in and tightened us up fantastically at the back, but we still struggled scoring goals. This season, however, you can see scoring goals hasn't been a problem. Again, it all boils down to confidence. You can look at our signings in the likes of Tomer Hemed to add to our goals, but its been the likes of Kazenga LuaLua & Sam Baldock who have really impressed for the Albion this season - both players who we had last season.

There's a real 'no fear' attitude in the squad. We had a great pre-season and the club have shown on and off the pitch the real togetherness that we have. We start every game on the front foot, we kick off and we go forward from the off. Maybe the change of formation to a 4-4-2 has helped, but that comes with making the signings that we wanted to. But it's not just the incoming signings we've had, it's the first time in a long time where we didn't sell anyone - a far cry from last season where we lost Leonardo Ulloa and Will Buckley, with no replacements. It's certainly been a fantastic start and long may it continue!

Q: Chris Hughton has previous experience of achieving promotion to the Premier League, having guided Newcastle United to top spot in 2010. After the superb start to this season, is he the man capable of taking the Seagulls into the top-flight for the first time since 1983?

A: It's quite difficult to say really. We've had a great start and the signs are hugely positive, but I don't see why not. I said the same thing about Gustavo Poyet, Oscar Garcia and even Sami Hyypia, and had every confidence, but there was always the stat - no foreign manager had, until Slavisa Jokanovic with Watford last season, been promoted from the Championship.

Hughton has given us much more grit, steel and fight about us, which we lacked under previous managers. We still play as good a football as we ever have, just a bit more hard working and tougher.

He knows the English game well and has a great record in this division. I'm not getting carried away, but I don't see why Hughton couldn't be the man!

Q: Tomer Hemed has scored five goals since arriving from Almeria in the summer, while Kazenga Lua Lua's return of four equals the total he achieved in the whole of last season. Aside from the obvious goal threat, what does each bring to the team that is likely to cause problems for Bolton?

A: Both good players who have started the season superbly, you're right there.

Kaz is a bit of an enigma at times and I'd probably say 75% of Albion fans - not myself - would have been okay if he had been sold in the summer. The other 25% would tell you he just needed a run of games to build up his - that word again - confidence! He's got a manager who believes in him and his fitness is tip top, whereas he previously struggled with injuries - leading to his use as an impact sub. He is what he is, an exciting powerful winger with an eye for goal. He's very quick and has a lethal strike on him, and don't under rate his defensive work. He tends to get booked a lot - six already this season - but he's also drawn the most fouls and yellow cards in the league this season.

Hemed is a striker I really like. He's a strong centre-forward with a real footballing brain and he has a good habit, scoring goals! He came with a decent goalscoring record in La Liga and a phenomenal record for Israel, where I believe he's scored 12 in 16. Not too long ago he was tracked by the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, so there's certainly a player there. He's formed a great striking partnership with Sam Baldock in a classic 'big man - little man' duo. He holds the ball up the field very well and can create chances for the midfield or his strike partner.

Q: Neil Lennon will celebrate 50 games in charge of Wanderers next weekend, with the club in a very different state to the one he inherited last October. What do you make of the job he has done so far and how far do you see him taking us?

A: Being Catholic Irish, Celtic have a place in my heart so I always look out for for Lennon. He did a very underrated job at Celtic and he's got a tough job at Bolton.

Obviously I don't know the ins and outs, but he seems like he's really got his hands tied in terms of finances at Bolton. No offence intended, but I was surprised he didn't wait for a job in the Premier League. A lot depends on the ambitions of the club, but if he's happy to stick around while the club rebuilds financially then I see no reason why you couldn't get back up there in a few years.

Q: Goals have been very difficult to come by, with Bolton netting just four times in eight games so far this campaign. With a number of key players unavailable, who do you expect to cause problems for the Brighton backline at the weekend?

A: There's certainly one name that sticks out, Stephen Dobbie. He became a bit of a pantomime villain with us. We signed him and he didn't have the best time, before loaning him to Crystal Palace, at his request, and him staying there on a permanent basis. He's certainly not the player he once was, however, I'm pretty sure he'll score - as he did in his last game against us, for Blackpool.

Other than him, I must admit I'm not overly familiar with the Bolton front men these years. Injuries to Zach Clough, who I do like as a player, and Emile Heskey would surely make it easier for us. I don't know how he's done with you guys, but I've played against Max Clayton before in his Crewe youth team days and my Wolves youth team days and, yes, he scored against me! Another player I do really like, but I've not heard much from him in recent times.

Q: Finally, what is your score prediction for Saturday's game?

A: Hmm, the one I never like to do! As you know, I'm not one for predictions. Naturally you'd have to say the team who are top should beat one of the sides towards the bottom, but this is the Championship so who knows! Our performances against the sides towards the bottom haven't been great, but I'm hoping for a bit of a backlash after our first shutout of the season against Wolves on Saturday.

Rather annoyingly, we've won all but three games this season and they are the three games I've been to! Two league draws away at Huddersfield Town (1-1) and Wolves (0-0) and a loss in the League Cup to League One Walsall (2-1). So I'm half debating whether to go or not!

If I have to predict, I'd say 2-0/3-1 Brighton. I've been quite good with my predictions in our matches, so I'm hoping for more of the same!

Burnden Aces would like to thank Chris for taking the time to answer our questions. You can read more from him on Twitter - @chrisfield25.

Sky Bet League Two Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
20 Tranmere Rovers 3 2
21 Oldham Athletic 3 0
22 Bolton Wanderers 3 0
23 Grimsby Town 2 0
24 Southend United 3 0
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