With the Football League kick-off just days away, this series of articles takes a closer look at the 24 teams vying for the £100 million Premier League bonanza.
Brighton & Hove Albion
After successive play-off failures Brighton will be hoping it is third time lucky in their search for Premier League promotion, with ex-Liverpool player Sami Hyypia - Brighton’s third manager in three seasons - the latest to take on the challenge.
Hyypia inherits a squad with a solid base and proven Championship credentials. Just 83 goals conceded (regular season only) in the past two seasons demonstrates Brighton are a team based on strong defensive foundations and Hyypia’s own career as a defender should do no worse than consolidate that. Where Hyypia must seek to improve the Seagulls is in attack.
While two play-off finishes could hardly be viewed as a failure, if there is a criticism of the Brighton team’s under former bosses Gus Poyet and Oscar Garcia is that the possession football espoused was cautious rather than creative.
Last season Brighton managed to score just 55 goals in 46 Championship games (the lowest scorers in the top 17), and the loss of 14-goal striker Leonardo Ulloa will hardly improve the situation.
However, with £8 million from the Ulloa transfer Hyypia will hope to use some of it to bring in a proven and reliable goalscorer, although this close to the start of the season the options are few and far between as most of the obvious candidates have already completed transfers.
Midfielder Andrew Crofts has described Hyypia’s pre-season as ‘unbelievable’, but he would do extremely well to replicate the top six finish achieved by his predecessors.
Last Season: 6th
Manager: Sami Hyypia
Transfers In*: Chris O’Grady (Barnsley, undisclosed), David Stockdale (Fulham, undisclosed), Nzuzi Toko (Grasshopper Zurich, free), Aaron Hughes (QPR, free)
Transfers Out*: Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester, £8 million), Matthew Upson (Leicester, free), Brennan Dickenson (Gillingham, free), Jeffrey Monakana (Aberdeen, loan), Tomasz Kuszczak, Andrea Orlandi, Peter Brezovan, Will Hoskins, David Lopez, David Rodriguez (released)
One To Watch: Jake Forster-Caskey (midfielder)
One for the pub quiz, 20-year-old Jake Forster-Caskey is the son of former Tottenham trainee Darren Caskey and the stepson of Football League legend Nicky Forster.
A left-footed midfielder with a refined technique who can operate as an advanced attacking midfielder or a more withdrawn playmaker, Forster-Caskey has represented England at a number of youth levels and is a current U21 international.
Last season Forster-Caskey made his much anticipated breakthrough to the Brighton first team: appearing 28 times and scoring three goals, including a 25-yard strike at Doncaster that earned him the club goal of the season award.
Alongside Rohan Ince, Forster-Caskey should play an important role in the heart of Brighton’s midfield over the next few years, and if Hyypia is to continue with the possession football preferred by Poyet and Garcia, then Forster-Caskey’s control in the midfield will be key to that.
Selected Odds: Champions 18-1; Promotion 13-2; Relegation 20-1
Opening Fixtures: Sheffield Wednesday (H), Birmingham (A), Leeds (A)
*Correct at the time of writing