Johnny Cantor: The pressure is on for all clubs in the play-offs
It has certainly been a tough week or so for those involved in and those who support Brighton & Hove Albion.
The disappointment of Saturday’s draw at Middlesbrough was compounded by the news that Dale Stephens will miss what his manager has described as the biggest two and possibly three games of his career.
Stephens will no doubt be a loss but Chris Hughton will hope his squad can cope, with the experienced Steve Sidwell available to replace him.
The pressure is on for all clubs involved in the play-offs but with the relegated sides from the Premier League now confirmed, it will be an even harder task next year for those who miss out.
Another potential problem for clubs that remain in the Championship is a possible raid on their players. Albion’s success this season and their third-placed finish will no doubt have been picked up on the radar by others.
Some of the Seagulls squad are already tracked by top-flight outfits. Inevitably players come and go from any club but Stephens has been key this season. I was mildly surprised he didn’t feature in the top three nominations for player of the year but that may be because he quietly goes about his business.
Lewis Dunk has had admirers for some time. Beram Kayal and Anthony Knockaert have also caught the eye this season.
The management and owners at the Albion won’t be able to sit down and talk contracts or extensions to the current deals until their fate is decided, be it May 16 or 28.
Of course, the club know who they want to keep but the bids from predators are as yet unknown. However, would the individuals want to go? The club is in a good position and many of the squad appear happy on and also importantly off the pitch.
Changes will happen no matter what division the Seagulls are playing in next season. The battle to build and restructure is a constant one.
Tough decisions will have to be made but Chris Hughton has the experience to cope. He, and the recruitment team, have constructed this squad so there’s no reason why they can’t do it again for the Championship if required, or strengthen for the Premier League.
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