Brighton And Hove Albion have spent big on their youth products in the last four years. One of the big steps in this was the £29 million spent on the development of the club’s state of the art training ground in Lancing. This holds more than 15 pitches, a pool, gym, physio rooms and medical facilities. This was built with not just the first team in mind, but the overall development and youth teams as well.
The Seagulls’ heavy youth investment
The Seagulls have also been investing heavily in recruiting young players. Since 2015 they have spent over £6m on six or seven very promising young players. However, this has not turned out as planned for a great deal of these players with only two out of the seven now at the club.
The two still at the club are Ales Mateju, the Czech full-back signed from Victoria Plzen, who was a key figure in Brighton U23’s promotion-winning season. The other is Swedish striker Victor Gyokeres who has been an integral part of the promotion-winning campaign, despite only linking up with the squad in January. Gyokeres was signed from Swedish side Brommapojkarna in September of last year for a fee around £1 million.
Since joining up with the U23’s in January, Gyokeres has scored scoring eight goals in 14 games. He particularly impressed in the U23’s playoff semi-final against Middlesbrough at The Amex, where he scored a brace in a 3-0 win.
However, despite this, the other players have failed to impress and they all either left on a free or for very little money in contrast to what the Seagulls had paid for them.
Youth players are struggling to break into the team
The youth players at the club have failed to break into the first-team squad for long periods, if at all in the last couple of years, which is a great shame considering how well previous youngsters have done after breaking into the first-team. A prime example of this is Lewis Dunk who made it to the first team squad back in 2009-10 season as an 18-year-old in League One against MK Dons.
Since then he has gone onto to make 208 appearances for Brighton and has become a key player in the current squad and is the vice-captain. He has also been a strong candidate to be included in the England squad prior to the World Cup, but unfortunately, he has not been called up yet. There has not been a youth player who has gotten close to making a first-team appearance in the league since then.
Albion’s successful development of youth players over the years
In the last eight to nine years, Brighton have had a lot of players coming through the academy who now play in the Football League or top flight of English football. Obviously as mentioned above Dunk has been a big success. Another Brighton youth player who has gone on to play in the Premier League is Tommy Elphick.
The centre-half made 153 appearances for The Seagulls in a seven-year stint till 2012 when he joined AFC Bournemouth. Elphick helped Bournemouth to promotion to the Premier League back in the 2014-15 season. He then made 14 appearances scoring one goal in the top flight the following season and now plays for Aston Villa.
It’s not just Elphick and Dunk who have played in the Premier League after breaking through from the Seagulls academy. Believe it or not, another centre-half is also there, who is playing for a fellow Premier League side.
The player in the discussion is Bournemouth centre-half, Steve Cook. Cook made five appearances for Brighton from 2008 to 2012, before moving along the south coast to the Cherries. Cook has made 116 appearances in the Premier League for Bournemouth in the last three seasons and he is now a key figure in Bournemouth’s team.
Brighton also have other players who have graduated from the academy in the last eight or nine years and are now on loan or play their football elsewhere and below is a list of them:
- Adam El-Abd, Wycombe Wanders, CB
- Dean Cox, Crawley Town, winger
- Jake Forster-Caskey, Charlton Athletic, CM
- Christian Walton, Wigan Athletic, GK (loan)
- Robert Sanchez, Forest Green Rovers, GK (loan)
- Joel Lynch, QPR, CB
How this season may see more joy for Brighton youth players
This season may see some of the U23’s get a chance in Brighton’s pre-season and if they play well, they can even break into the first team squad in the Premier League. There are two players in the form of Gyokeres and Sanders who could be vouched upon to doing this. Gyokeres will definitely have the best chance due to his impressive goal-scoring ability and the way he could be used to come off the bench and run at a tired defence.
Add to this the fact that he can play on the wing as well as upfront, this would make him a versatile and useful option for the Seagulls.
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