Ask several Brighton fans the moment they thought Albion were going to be up in the Premier League next season and you’ll get several different answers.
Some fans were optimistic from the get-go, some were more pessimistic and thought the big chance to go up was last year, some thought the Seagulls would blow it and Huddersfield would overtake them.
In the Albion squad, there has always been the character and belief that they could do it. Last year and the disappointment of missing out on promotion was quickly forgotten about.
Since promotion to the Premier League was confirmed, the squad and manager Chris Hughton have spoken about moments they felt defined the season.
Hughton felt bouncing back from the back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and Brentford, which left Albion 13th in the table after six games, was one key period – along with the wins at Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham.
Steve Sidwell recalled the late 2-1 victory at Birmingham, when Glenn Murray headed the winner four minutes into injury-time and the squad then had their Christmas night out afterwards. He also pinpointed the way they fought back to earn a late 3-3 draw at Brentford in February.
Lewis Dunk highlighted the fact the squad had belief from the start of the season but the narrow wins, when the team were not at their best, were pivotal.
One of the key moments for me was the Sheffield Wednesday game at the Amex.
Level at 1-1, Murray was sent off and the visitors had a penalty to take the lead. David Stockdale produced an outstanding double save and the ten-man Seagulls went on to claim all three points when Anthony Knockaert slid in to convert a Sebastien Pocognoli cross late on.
Other games that stand out are the 5-0 win at home to Norwich in October. It sent out a message to every other team in the league that Albion meant business this year. Remember, Brighton failed to win a game by more than a goal until February last season.
The game at Bristol City showed the character, togetherness and team spirit of the squad – when Sidwell held Knockaert’s shirt aloft days after the French winger’s father had died.
The 3-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest is another key moment of the season. With Shane Duffy suffering a broken foot and Huddersfield piling on the pressure, there were more than a few Brighton fans worried they could falter in the promotion race. They responded with back-to-back wins but question marks were again raised after a 2-0 defeat at Leeds ahead of an international break.
The response? Five successive wins at the crunch stage of the season to seal promotion to the Premier League with three games to spare.
The celebrations after sealing a top-two place were amazing. Now, Albion will be looking to clinch the title. The players deserve it for the season they’ve had and it will certainly put the icing on the cake of a truly outstanding campaign.
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