'I felt strong' - Brighton signing from Chelsea that went under the radar has world at his feet once more

Tariq Lamptey arrived at the Amex Stadium from Chelsea for a shade more than £3m with little fuss in January 2020 on the winter transfer deadline day

Tariq Lamptey has impressed since his return from injury, including his second half display at Anfield
Tariq Lamptey has impressed since his return from injury, including his second half display at Anfield

As has been customary for the last few windows, Albion fans were hoping for news of that magical 20-goal per season striker and Lamptey was very much seen as one for the future as Brighton continued in their quest to avoid relegation.

Former Barcelona man Martin Montoya was Albion's most established right back and was expected to hold guard for the remainder of the campaign.

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However, head coach Graham Potter and Lamptey himself took a different view. It was a bold move to throw the untested youngster from Hillingdon into a relegation battle but not only did he hold his own, he played a key role in maintaining Albion's top flight status.

His debut during the 0-0 draw at Leicester was impressive as the 5ft 5in wing back proved he had the pace and skill to compete at the highest level but also displayed he could cope with the physicality.

He took a number of hefty blows that day but kept bouncing back up and helped Albion to a point at the King Power. He immediately won the respect of his teammates and the trust of his manager.

The England youth international made a further seven Premier League appearances that campaign and it was clear Albion had a serious talent on their hands.

Potter is brave enough as a coach to play his youngsters and Lamptey - who moved from Chelsea for regular football - started the 2020/21 season just as well.

His natural ability to turn and run at defenders added a new dimension to Albion's play and he was drawing praise to from all quarters.

Wayne Rooney said Man United should instantly sign him, while he was also linked with big moves to Tottenham, Arsenal and even Bayern Munich.

He scored his first Premier League goal against Tottenham in November 2020 but was soon rocked by a hamstring injury sustained at Fulham the following month.

The problem was initially diagnosed as "nothing serious" but it was further 10 months before Albion fans saw him in Premier League action again.

After surgery and months of rehabilitation work, Lamptey finally returned last month as a second half substitute in the 0-0 draw at Norwich.

It was a solid return as he eased his way back but against Man City and Liverpool Lamptey showed glimpses of the devastating pace and form and that Albion had badly missed.

At Anfield his introduction helped change the game as Brighton clawed their way back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2...it was a game they could have easily won.

Lamptey was playing in a more advanced role and against Man City and Liverpool he had the beating of the world's best defenders.

His first start came just prior to the international break in the 1-1 home draw against Newcastle. The 21-year-old played for 75 minutes and was a constant problem to the visitors.

He understandably tired in the second half but - with another two weeks of recovery and training under his belt - Lamptey should be more than ready to face Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa this Saturday.

“I felt quite strong, even towards the end of the game," he said. "It was just great to be back on the pitch and doing the thing I love, it’s been a long time coming.

“I just have to keep working hard because there are things in my game I can improve. The way to do that is to keep playing games and learning from the great coaches and players around me.

“Every week you pick up different things and face a new challenge because there are a lot of world-class players and fantastic teams in the Premier League. That brings the best out in me.”

Of his more advanced role since returning from injury, he added: “I enjoyed it, but it’s not a new position to me,” he said. "In my youth career I moved around quite a lot, played on the left and right and further up the pitch.

“In terms of the game, we know we can do better, we only played well in patches but in the circumstances at the end [when goalkeeper Rob Sanchez was sent off] it’s not a bad point. We’ll look to go again after the break against Aston Villa.”

Brighton fans are still waiting for that guaranteed 20-goal a season man but in Lamptey they may have landed something even better.