Top 10 will be remarkable for Brighton after crippling injuries and 'unforgettable' Europa League journey

Brighton players celebrate after victory against Olympique de Marseille at American Express StadiumBrighton players celebrate after victory against Olympique de Marseille at American Express Stadium
Brighton players celebrate after victory against Olympique de Marseille at American Express Stadium
Ian Hart predicts a bright future for Albion after a rollercoaster season

Back in the day if a club, in whatever Division, had an average season, it would be widely described as ‘transitional’.

As the currently woeful Manchester United (that’s an away win on the back of the ‘curse of the column’) arrive at the Amex on Sunday afternoon to bring down the curtain on the 23/24 season.

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The first ever playing European football, almost a ‘feast or famine’ collection of results, the high points being Evan Ferguson becoming the first Albion playing in top flight history to score a league hat-trick at home – emphatic home wins against Spurs and Palace, a record EPL away win, 5-0 at Sheffield United, topping the Europa League group on the back of a last gasp winner at home to Marseille.

But on the flip side some truly forgettable ‘home draws’ against the likes of relegated Sheffield United and Burnley, alongside Everton and Fulham – it’s those dropped 8 points coupled with the horrendous injury problems that’s potentially stopped the Albion qualifying for Europe for the second successive season. (And that’s without mentioning a solitary point, and goal for that matter in April).

At the time of going to press, with the Chelsea and United home games to come, the EPL statisticians tell us that the Albion have had 20 separate serious injuries to their first team squad, resulting in total to 159 missed games.

I know stats can be manipulated, but when you sit back and read that in plain English it’s a wonder the Albion have, hopefully, yet again secured a top ten finish.But it’s actually a been a transitional season for the Albion, but not in the traditional way, the club has actually transitioned into a credible top ten EPL side, who, in the main, gave a great account of themselves in Europe.

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Despite the disappointing showing in Rome, and falling short of European qualification again, next season cannot come soon enough.

The injuries were indeed horrendous, but also a learning curve. I firmly believe the squad will kick off in August considerably stronger, with hopefully no significant departures other than Adam Lallana.

I’m not saying Albion will be in the hunt for Champions League football, but with the right investment they could well be in that mini-league battling out for the other European competitions. Next season, I predict a finish of between fifth and ninth.

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