Stephens staying is Albion’s best transfer business

Dale Stephens. Picture by Phil Westlake
Dale Stephens. Picture by Phil Westlake
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Is your glass half full or half empty as an Albion fan after the transfer window came to a close last night?

There have been numerous flashpoints over the past few weeks, with players linked with moves in and out of the Amex. One key point, though, is Albion have a stronger squad now than they did at this stage last season when, remember, they started their Championship campaign with a 21-game unbeaten run.

Keeping Dale Stephens is arguably Albion’s most important piece of summer business. The midfielder was a key part of last season’s success and there’s no doubt Brighton would be weaker in central midfield had he gone.

He’s a hard-tackling, in-your-face, midfield general and would have been almost impossible to replace had he been sold so late in the transfer window.

Burnley repeatedly bid for the 27-year-old but it’s worth more to Albion keeping him and potentially reaching the Premier League, than selling him now and not finding an adequate replacement.

Yes, he could go on a free at the end of the season but that’s definitely a risk worth taking for Brighton. I know some fans have spoken about having an unhappy player in the dressing room now but there seems such a strong team spirit at the club, I can’t see that being the case.

In an honest statement last night, Stephens admitted he was disappointed not to be given the chance to join a Premier League club - but will now honour his contract and you wouldn’t expect anything less.

Stephens doesn’t come across as a trouble-maker, so if and when he’s called upon by Chris Hughton, I’m sure we’ll see the same level of commitment which we saw last season.

Two other midfielders, Steve Sidwell – who was on loan last season – and Oliver Norwood also joined Albion this summer and create strong competition for places for the Albion but, for me, the partnership of Kayal and Stephens is the best in the division.

Glenn Murray returned this summer and will find the back of the net on a regular basis, while keeping Anthony Knockaert is also a massive statement of intent from the Seagulls.

The best player in the division on his day, he’s started the season in outstanding fashion, seemingly on a mission to ensure Albion are right at the top again.

There was some disappointment among Brighton fans that a forward or number ten-type player was not signed. Obviously that was an area Albion were looking to strengthen as they almost brought in Alex Pritchard before his last-minute move to Norwich.

However, Knockaert could easily play the role just behind the striker, especially with Solly March closing in on a first-team return. If he returns in the form before his injury in December, it will be better than a new signing anyway.

And that’s also not forgetting Albion have signed defender Shane Duffy from Blackburn and Sebastien Pocognoli on loan from West Bromich Albion, both strong additions to the squad.

Keeping hold of their best players was more key to Brighton this transfer window than making several signings. They’ve done that, so I firmly believe they will be in the promotion mix again this season.

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