Graham Potter’s young stars are beginning to come of age, and Brighton & Hove Albion are reaping the rewards.
The Seagull’s are unbeaten across their past six matches in all competitions; including historic victories against Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur and reigning champions Liverpool, at Anfield.
This impressive run of form has allowed Albion to pull themselves away from the relegation and set their sights on those above them, rather than nervously looking over their shoulders.
Academy graduates, Lewis Dunk, Solly March and Ben White have played integral parts in Albion’s performances over recent weeks, and they’re also laying the groundwork for the next batch of fledgling Seagulls.
Steven Alzate is one of a few hoping to stake their claim in Potter’s starting XI for years to come, and after a string of impressive performances, is set to start against Leicester City in the FA Cup.
The 22-year-old graduated through Leyton Orient’s academy and made his debut for the club in 2017, before netting his first senior goal in a 4-0 victory against Newport County.
Ahead of Albion’s first Premier League campaign, Alzate was one of a number of new additions to the playing personnel in the summer of 2017.
The midfielder was initially integrated into the club’s youth team before spending the first half of the 2018/19 season on loan at Swindon Town.
Alzate impressed for the Robins by scoring twice in 22 games, before a stress fracture to his back cut his time at the club short.
After returning from injury, the Colombia international had to wait until August 2019 to make his senior debut for the club when he played the entirety of Albion’s 2-1 EFL Cup victory against Bristol Rovers.
Shortly after his Brighton bow, he was called up to represent his country by former Real Madrid manager and Manchester United coach Carlos Queiroz.
He earned his first cap in November 2019 when coming off the bench in a 1-0 victory over Peru, before making his full debut in another victory of the same scoreline against Ecuador.
After a handful of appearances in the league last season, he’s risen to prominence in 2020/21 and during the busy winter period in particular.
Due to the unprecedented situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, the congested Christmas period was even more hectic, which forced managers to stretch their squads to the limit.
In Albion’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with League One Blackpool, Alzate was credited with the assist to Yves Bissouma’s breathtaking 30-yard strike, before fortuitously netting his first goal in Albion colours by deflecting Alexis Mac Allister’s effort past Chris Maxwell.
It goes without saying that a trip to the King Power will provide a tougher test for the 22-year-old, but he has already proved he isn’t fazed by daunting away trips.
Alzate started in Albion’s first victory away to Liverpool since 1982. He then netted his second, and potentially most important, goal for the club by pipping Leandro Trossard to Dan Burn’s squared header to poke the ball past Alisson.
Alzate is comfortable on the ball and provides calmness and quality of someone beyond his years.
So far during his limited performances in the league, he averages one key pass per game and one successful dribble.
Although these statistics may not suggest Alzate is setting the world alight, he’s only completed three 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.
Patience is always needed with young players as they adapt to the demands of senior football and even the best players experience dips in form.
Potter has implemented his ethos of youth involvement integrated with experienced pros on the south coast, and the future looks bright for the club and its starlets.