Tuesday, January 31, 2023

(Opinion) This Is The Next Brighton & Hove Superstar Who Will Emerge From The Academy

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Adam Stenning
Adam is the Brighton Correspondent here at The 4th Official. He is a 21-year old Sports Journalism graduate. He is not only passionate about football but also has a keen interest in cricket, tennis and Formula 1.

Brighton are blessed to have such incredible facilities in which not only senior players, but also the youth players thrive. Last Thursday, Brighton fans saw, one of the biggest success stories to come out of the Brighton academy in the last ten years, Lewis Dunk start for England. 

The big question for many of the Brighton fans now is who is going to be the next Lewis Dunk. The answer to this question at the moment is striker Aaron Connolly. Connolly is an 18-year-old Irish striker who has been with The Seagulls since 2016 when he joined Albion from Mervue United. 

Since joining, the striker has been in impressive form and is indeed someone Brighton fans may well see in the first team shortly.

Where it started for Connolly at Brighton

When Connolly joined The Seagulls in July 2016, he was put straight into the u18’s squad for their 2016/17 season. In that season he scored six goals in 17 games for the U18’s.

This is pretty impressive for a player who was going up against some of the top youth sides in the country like Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham to name just a few.

The step up to the U23’s

Connolly’s impressive form for the U18’s earnt him promotion up to the u23’s squad at just the age of 17. The striker did well that season, scoring nine goals in 21 games in Brighton’s promotion winning campaign to the EPL 2 Division One, to compete in the top U23’s division in the country against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool’s U23’s.

This season Connolly has been even more impressive scoring nine goals and getting one assist in the EPL 2 Division One. Connolly has also scored five goals in three games in the Checkatrade Trophy, including a hat-trick against the current League Two leaders, MK Dons to help them to a 3-2 victory. 

Connolly’s form in the last couple of years has earnt him international recognition, with him having represented the Republic of Ireland at U17, U18 and now U19 level in which he has scored one goal in his first four caps.

The 18-year-old has appeared for the first team in the Carabao Cup both this season and last season. Most recently, Connolly travelled along with fellow U23 players Ben White and Victor Gyokeres up to Cardiff alongside the first-team squad for their last Premier League game before the November international break.

What’s next for Connolly?

The big decision for Brighton now is whether to loan out Connolly to a football league club to see how he gets on in senior men’s football or whether to keep him at Albion playing in the U23’s squad.

Personally, I would like to see Connolly loaned out to a League One or League Two side where he could get regular first team football and then if he impresses on loan, include him in the first team’s pre-season for the 2019/20 season.

However, it would not be a bad idea to keep him at the club to play for the U23’s in both the EPL 2 and the Checkatrade trophy and maybe even the FA Cup for the first team, so he could continue to test himself against Football League or even perhaps Premier League teams. 

One thing is for sure, and that is if Connolly continues to perform as he has been, it will not be long before he breaks through into the first team for more than just one game.

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