Albion's wing wizards give Hughton real options

Seagulls boss Chris Hughton is delighted with the wing options he has at his disposal heading into the final six league games of the season.

Anthony Knockaert Photograph: Angela Brinkhurst
Anthony Knockaert Photograph: Angela Brinkhurst

January transfer window signing Anthony Knockaert and Jamie Murphy started the 2-2 draw with Championship leaders Burnley last Saturday, before Kazenga LuaLua and Jiri Skalak, another January signing, came in for the 2-1 victory at Birmingham on Tuesday.

All four have provided crucial contributions this season. LuaLua began the campaign in sparkling form and was named the Championship player of the month for August.

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A frustrating groin injury saw him ruled out for just over three months and Tuesday’s game at Birmingham was his first start since September.

Murphy has scored six goals since joining from Sheffield United in August, while Knockaert has looked an excellent addition and Czech international Skalak has already provided four assists.

On having the wing options, Hughton said: “It’s massively important for us. There’s always a little train of thought at most clubs that you want stability and consistency in some positions. Generally, it tends to be your central midfield or defensively but it’s never a bad idea at the right times to freshen up offensive areas.

“That being the case, it’s really good, particularly at this moment with Sam Baldock and Bobby Zamora out, to have offensive options in the wide areas.

“What we also have in a couple of them is players that can play in different positions. Jiri is one that can play off the front and Jamie can too, so it’s good to have those options.”

Hughton admits it is a big plus to have LuaLua fit and firing again now: “It’s been difficult for him as it was a long time out. In that time, we’ve recruited well. We’d already got Jamie in the summer and now we’ve brought in two good players on the right-hand side in Anthony and Jiri.

“There’s competition in the wide areas, which Kazenga is a part of but more importantly, he’s now back fit and available, which is a real plus.”

Hughton has also been pleased with the start Skalak has made to his Albion career and said: “Jiri has slotted in very well. He’s hard-working, so that was one of the things that appealed to us when we brought him in.

“If I look at the acquisitions in January, bringing in Anthony at that stage of the season was predominantly because he knows the division. And we always felt that Jiri would be able to cope with the physicality of the league. He’s a good lad who has settled in very well.”

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