Graham Potter makes Danny Welbeck injury admission as striker returns ahead of Brentford and Chelsea

When fit, Danny Welbeck remains a special player for Brighton but getting the striker match ready during his 18 months on the south coast has proved problematic for head coach Graham Potter.

Brighton striker Danny Welbeck is available to face Brentford at the Amex stadium on Boxing Day
Brighton striker Danny Welbeck is available to face Brentford at the Amex stadium on Boxing Day

Welbeck is returning from his latest injury following surgery on his hamstring and is available for Albion's Boxing Day fixture against Brentford at the Amex Stadium.

Potter described Welbeck as one of the very few players capable of making the difference at the highest level and believes the ex-England striker can fire 13th placed Albion out of their 11 match winless rut.

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"Danny played against Leicester and then got injured against Crystal Palace. It has coincided with the games that we haven’t won," admitted Potter.

"Sometimes you need a player that can make the difference. Danny Welbeck is a player that can make the difference – it’s as simple as that.

"He is one of our best players, he has fantastic experience, and I think it is common knowledge that when Danny Welbeck is fit and enjoying his football he is a huge asset to the team.”

The former Man United and Arsenal frontrunner has started just three matches for Brighton this season and has yet to complete 90 minutes.

He was unavailable at the start of the campaign, having sustained a hamstring problem in the penultimate match of the previous season against Manchester City.

Potter tried to ease him back gently and Welbeck appeared to be on track when he scored during Brighton's 2-1 victory against Leicester at the Amex Stadium last September.

In the next match at Crystal Place however, the same hamstring painfully went ping once more as he fully-lengthened his stride to accelerate away from the Palace defence.

The 31-year-old was swiftly booked in for his latest surgery and began yet another journey back to fitness.

Welbeck had joined Brighton on a free transfer in October 2020 on a one-year-deal following an injury-hit spell at Watford.

He repaid Albion's gamble with six goals - including sublime strikes against Leeds, Aston Villa and Newcastle but also missed eight matches with a knee problem and the final fixture at Arsenal with his hamstring.

The man who shot to prominence with Man United under Sir Alex Ferguson almost 12 years ago was then offered a new one-year deal by Albion last summer but so far it's been frustrating for all.

Welbeck has now undergone surgery on both hamstrings - the first of which saw him miss 18 matches for Watford in the 2019-20 season and now 17 matches for Brighton with this latest one.

At Arsenal, following his £16m move from Old Trafford in 2014, he also suffered serious ankle, groin, cartilage, knee and patella problems causing him to miss 123 matches from his five seasons at the Emirates.

Welbeck is currently one of the higher earners at Brighton and signing him was a considered gamble - one that could yet see Albion just about break even, if he has a strong second half of the campaign.

Potter will hope Welbeck can rapidly rediscover the form that saw him score 16 goals from 42 appearances for England and also believes the persistent hamstring injuries will not trouble him mentally.

Welbeck's former England teammate Michael Owen previously said he was never the same following his serious hamstring issues and admitted he had to adjust his game for fear of it happening again.

"Just because Michael Owen says something doesn't mean it's the same situation for everybody," said Potter. "But I understand the point he's making.

"It depends on the individual and it depends on the rehabilitation process and what strategies they have used. Danny has had surgery on his other hamstring previously and has never had a problem with that since.

"I think he feels the same with this one. Since he has been back he has looked better than ever. He looks sharper and faster than ever.

"I don't have any concerns and I think Danny is the same. He went through a period where it was reoccurring and I think surgery has fixed that for him. I think that puts him in a better place psychologically."