On the Fringe: What does the future hold for these Brighton & Hove Albion Players?

Brighton & Hove Albion finally made the step up to the promised land with automatic promotion this year, having finished in the play-off positions in 3 out of the 4 previous seasons. It was particularly painful in the 2015/16 season where the Albion missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference to Middlesbrough in an “all or nothing” game at the Riverside on the last day of the season. They subsequently crashed out of the playoffs after suffering a string of freak injuries in defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

Manager Chris Hughton was able to strengthen and add to his already promotion-challenge-ready squad by signing Ollie Norwood and Glenn Murray. The latter in particular turned out to be an inspired signing as the Cumbrian scored a total of 23 league goals over the season. The last Brighton player to score over 20 league goals since? Glenn Murray in 2011.

The Brighton squad still contains a lot of Championship quality players. Some will make the step up to the Premier League and inevitably, some won’t. Hughton has already released Vegard Forren and Chris O’Grady but there are surely more on their way out.

At the start of the 2010/2011 season the Premier League introduced the ’25 man squad rule’. This means clubs can have no more than 25 players over the age of 21 and at least 8 of those must be “homegrown” players. Under 21 players from a club’s youth set up can be called upon at any time and are not counted in the 25. With this in mind recruitment will need to be very carefully planned.

Brighton are still very much in the market for new players and will need to strengthen considerably to maximise their chances of maintaining Premier League status for the 18/19 season. With more players inevitably incoming and the strict Premier League ‘25 man squad rule’ to consider, Hughton has a lot to ponder in the weeks leading up to the start of the season.

We look at some selected players on the fringes of the Albion’s starting XI and analyse their chances of remaining a part of Brighton’s Premier League adventure.

Oliver Norwood
Signed at the beginning of the 16/17 season from Reading, Norwood was brought in to add competition to the centre of midfield.

Fellow midfielder Dale Stephens was heavily linked with a move away from Brighton, with Burnley the most interested in acquiring his services, and with Stephens entering the last year of his contract, Norwood was a safe and dependable addition to the squad.

Norwood featured in a memorable away victory at Sheffield Wednesday alongside Steve Sidwell in central midfield. However chances became limited for Norwood after that and a mixture of the odd start and more frequently, cameo roles from the bench, would probably hint at Norwood being on his way out. With Stephens having signed a new deal to keep him at the club for their debut Premier League season, Norwood is unlikely to feature regularly.

The Argus reported that the Albion are open to enquiries for Norwood, to ensure the midfielder gets game time in his quest to further his international career with Northern Ireland.

Elvis Manu
Signed early in the 15/16 season Manu arrived from Feyenoord for a hefty fee by Brighton standards. The forward had featured in the Eredivisie and played in the Europa League so seemed of decent pedigree for a Championship club with lofty ambitions.

Manu has never really been in the picture since his arrival from Feyenoord and with question marks over his attitude and discipline, he was loaned out last season back to his homeland with Go Ahead Eagles.

Given his lack of impact to date it looks almost certain that Elvis will be leaving the building.

Kazenga LuaLua
It’s hard to believe Kazenga LuaLua is one of Brighton’s longest serving players now, at the age of 26.

A popular figure and fans’ favourite at the Amex due to his electric pace and willingness to run at defenders, LuaLua saw chances limited last season and was loaned out to QPR.

More often than not LuaLua was branded as an impact player and usually that impact would come from the substitutes bench. LuaLua has also had his fair share of bad luck with injuries during his time at Brighton.

Although somebody with LuaLua’s pace and attributes could suit the Premier League, it is likely, should LuaLua be included in the 25 man squad, he would at best feature from the bench and it’s difficult to imagine the Congolese winger would be happy with continued limited chances at this stage of his career.

Christian Walton
Christian Walton continues his development as a promising goalkeeper following successful loan spells at Luton and Southend. Still highly rated at Brighton, Walton has featured for England at under 19, under 20 and under 21 level.

It looks likely the young goalkeeper will be loaned out again to further his progression, but all the signs point to him having a longer term future at Brighton, perhaps even more so now David Stockdale has departed.

Rohan Ince
Rohan Ince is still only 24 years old despite having been at the club since 2013. A key figure in central midfield during Oscar Garcia’s reign, Ince has found opportunities harder to come by under Chris Hughton.

The tough tackling midfielder recently completed a loan spell at Swindon Town and despite The Robins’ relegation to League 2, Ince gained plaudits for the shifts he put in during his time at the County Ground. Then Swindon manager, Luke Williams even compared Ince to Chelsea’s N’golo Kante.

It looks likely that opportunities in the Premier League may be limited for Ince and he may be against the idea of another loan spell away from the Amex, suggesting a permanent deal elsewhere may be the most likely outcome.

Whatever happens to Rohan Ince one thing is for certain; he will not be low on suitors.

Changes Likely
If the latest odds on football are to be believed, The Seagulls will be really up against it next season as they are currently second favourites for the drop at 5/4.

Although the core of the promotion winning side will remain largely the same, Hughton still needs to bring in a few quality additions to make sure his side is competing in the Premier League and with the ’25 man squad rule’ decision on the horizon, it is likely there will be many more outs as well as ins.

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