What do the following players all have in common? Raul, Adrian Mutu, Michael Owen, Roque Santa Cruz, Jordan Rhodes, Glenn Murray, Wayne Bridge, Carlton Cole, Fabian Delph, Emmanuel Frimpong, Ross McCormack and Greg Bobkin.
The answer? They’ve all been rumoured to be joining Brighton & Hove Albion at some point this summer.
Obviously, most of these rumours are complete fabrication, a total nonsense. Of the names mentioned above, only Bridge has actually joined Albion. Stevenage ‘player’ Bobkin doesn’t even exist! There is a wider point to these rumours though. The mere fact that a sane person would even give the smallest consideration to a piece of speculation concerning Brighton signing Raul shows that this little club on the South Coast is really starting to become big.
Bridge’s capture on a season-long loan from Manchester City is further proof of Albion’s ever increasing power. With 36 England caps and hundreds of Premier League appearances, he really is a stunning signing, the sort that I feel gives us a genuine chance of gaining promotion to the so-called promised land this season.
Another man who gives us an excellent chance of promotion this season is Vicente. Regular readers of my blog last season will know I constantly waxed lyrical over the Spaniard, and with good reason. ‘The Dagger’ single-handedly won us several games last term, and may well have secured us a play-off spot is he had been fit all season. With his injury problems now apparently behind him, I simply cannot wait to see him tearing Championship defences to pieces for an entire campaign.
Should homesickness ever be a problem, Vicente has a friend to rely on this time around, after his former Valencia team-mate Bruno Saltor became Gus Poyet’s second summer capture. I have to be honest and say that I’ve seen very little of him in action so far, but all the reports I have heard have been extremely positive. He could also be the most attacking right-back I’ve ever seen – in the one game I have watched him play against Reading last week he appeared to spend more time as an attacking midfielder than he did in defence!
Poyet’s first summer action was to rectify the area that had been our biggest problem last season – the goalkeeper. With Peter Brezovan and Casper Ankergren both looking more like decent number two’s than quality number one’s, something needed to be done. Step forward Tomasz Kuszczak – the Manchester United goalkeeper whose name has probably been mis-spelt more times in this country than any other (before you ask, yes, I did just use Google to check the spelling myself!). Whilst he didn’t feature too heavily during his time at Old Trafford, you don’t a contract there without being a quality player, and I’m told he looked very good during a loan spell at Watford last season.
So, with Kuszczak bound to take the gloves this season, the futures of Brezovan and Ankergren seem less certain. Whilst neither deserve the number one jersey ahead of Kuszczak, neither deserves to be a number three either, which is the fate that awaits one of them. Whoever that is will surely need to move on to get a better chance of game time – if you’re reading this as a supporter of a League One team who needs a new goalkeeper, your answer could lie within the Amex’s home dressing room.
Albion’s final new face so far this summer is actually an old face. Andrew Crofts re-joined the club last week on a three year deal, two years after leaving for Norwich City. Crofts is an ideal replacement for the released Alan Navarro in the heart of Albion’s midfield, and will complement Vicente, Liam Bridcutt and Will Buckley perfectly.
So, that’s the goalkeeper, defence and midfield sorted. All we need to do now is find a new striker to complete the jigsaw. After an injury plagued first season at Albion, Will Hoskins looked set to be the answer to our problems, until injury struck yet again. Of course, Craig Mackail-Smith is still here, but he disappointed last season, and talk of him leaving the club has barely stopped all summer. That just leaves Ashley Barnes and rookie Norwegian Torbjorn Agdestein as our firepower for tomorrow night’s League Cup opener at Swindon Town. I’m sure Poyet is on his phone trying to rectify this as I type!
For all of the player’s coming in, one significant name has left the Amex in the last few days. Defender Tommy Elphick made over 150 appearances in the stripes after coming through the club’s youth system, before moving along the coast to AFC Bournemouth on Saturday. It’s a great shame that Elphick never got to play for his hometown club at the Amex after missing the whole of last season with a knee injury, and I think you’ll be hard pressed to find an Albion fan who doesn’t wish him well as he enters a new stage of his career.
Now though, the time has come for me to predict our league finish this season, a prediction that could potentially look ridiculous come May. All bias aside, I honestly think we are going to have a fantastic season, so I’m predicting a 5th place finish. I’m not saying a word about how we might do in the play-offs though!
Here’s to a great season!
Written by Liam Dawes – We Are Going Up’s Brighton and Hove Albion Blogger