Seagulls Over Burwash Article – July 2024

Manager Rumours, Meetings and the Euros 

When Brighton and Hove Albion’s former manager, Graham Potter, left to take the helm at Chelsea after only six games of the 2022 season, there was a general consensus in the press and social media that the Albion would descend into a chaotic free-fall towards relegation and that the club would not be able to replace their most successful manager during the football season. Indeed, the circumstances were anything but ideal as most prospective replacements were already employed and would not desert their clubs so close to the commencement of the new season……. although Mr Potter had no such qualms! When the club announced the appointment of Roberto De Zerbi as their new head coach the resounding response was “who??” De Zerbi had been coach at Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine until Vladimir Putin put a halt to his appointmentsxfddfdxdgfgdd, beyond Ukraine and his native Italy, he was largely unknown. Many pundits saw him as a risk and believed a more established manager with Premier League experience was required. Two years later, De Zerbi had led the club to it’s highest ever finish in the football league, qualified for Europe and played an attacking brand of football that was the envy of many other clubs and supporters. As it turned out, Chairman Tony Bloom and CEO Paul Barber, along with the extensive data analytical prowess that Bloom brings to the table, got it spot on and De Zerbi is being touted for some of the biggest jobs in world football.

Towards the end of the last season, De Zerbi made it clear that he did not share the vision of Bloom and Barber that has seen the club recruit young, talented footballers from around the globe and develop them into top level players at Brighton with a view to making a profit in the event that they move on to ‘bigger’ clubs. De Zerbi felt the club needed to buy established ‘Premier League-ready’ players that would help elevate the club to another level of achievement more quickly. However, Bloom was not going to deviate from the model that has served the club so well and that has ensured that the club is sustainable and at no risk of the financial turmoil that so many other clubs find themselves in. So, at the end of last season, Brighton and Hove Albion and De Zerbi parted company amicably, ‘by mutual agreement’ and the search for a new head coach began. 

Well, when I say ‘the search for a new head coach began’, that is not entirely true. The search for a new head coach began way before that as the club is diligent, bordering on obsessive, when it comes to succession planning. Every key position in the club, whether that be players, coaches or the Chief Executive himself, has a succession plan to allow for the scenario that someone leaves, retires or can no longer do their job. Therefore, even before De Zerbi said his farewells to the supporters after the final game against Manchester United, there was a shortlist of prospective replacements for his job that had been painstakingly compiled using the same data analytical processes that are applied to recruiting players. Of course, the rumour-mill went into overdrive with a host of names thrown into the hat, including former boss, Graham Potter, Steve Cooper, Ipswich’s Kieran McKenna and Southampton’s Russel Martin. However, in typical Bloom/Barber style, it now seems likely that the next manager will be Fabian Hurzeler………….”who???”, I hear you cry. Hurzeler is an American-born German manager who has been coaching in the German second division for St. Pauli where he won the league this season. He apparently is known for his possession-based, free-flowing, De Zerbi-esque football and so fits the Brighton philosophy of playing. What is most shocking though is the fact he is only 31 years old. Just when I had finally got my head around the fact that I am now too old to become a professional footballer, it now seems I am also past it when it comes to management as well! Whilst, at the time of writing, Hurzeler’s appointment has yet to be announced, it seems likely that only the dotting of the ‘i’s and crossing of the ‘t’s is needed to confirm his position.

Last night, 10th June, we had the Seagulls Over Burwash AGM and our guest for the evening was the Albion’s Chief Executive/Deputy Chairman, Paul Barber, who took questions from our members. Given the much anticipated managerial appointment, Paul was inevitably asked directly and indirectly whether Hurzeler was to be employed by the club. With the verbal dexterity of a seasoned politician, he avoided answering the question directly but stated that an “appointment was imminent” and that the club has “secured a work permit” and he did not dismiss the idea that bratwurst, sauerkraut and schnitzels would be served at the Amex! So, it’s got to be, hasn’t it? If Hurzeler is not the Brighton manager by next month, I will eat humble pie as well as my hat as I type the next article.

The Seagulls Over Burwash AGM was extremely well attended with over 100 members convening at The Bear Inn, Burwash, with another 50 ‘apologies for absence’ notes received due to it being a school night. Teskey’s moment of glory, the Chairman’s Speech, was mercifully brief and the formalities of the meeting were concluded within 30 minutes. That left plenty of time to subject Paul Barber to a wide range of questions about the football club, the new manager, the FA, financial fair play, the new manager, VAR, transfers, the new manager, injuries, stadium seating and the new manager. As always, he answered all questions, well, all except one, directly and honestly and provided a fascinating insight into the running of Brighton and Hove Albion and the surreal world of top-flight professional football. 

The new Premier League season kicks off on the weekend of 17th August. In the meantime, we have the European Championship, at which numerous Albion players will be participating for their respective countries. So good luck to Lewis Dunk (England), Billy Gilmore (Scotland), Pascal Gross and Denis Undav (Germany), Bart Verbruggen (Netherlands) and Jakub Moder (Poland). Let’s hope they all do well, return uninjured and that Dunk comes home with a winner’s medal!

For further information on joining Seagulls Over Burwash and details of forthcoming events, meetings or coach travel, please visit our website at www.seagullsoverburwash.co.uk or email me at simon.forster@seagullsoverburwash.co.uk. Alternatively, please feel free to contact our Chairman, Mr Teskey O’Neil, on 01435 884344 or tesbar80@btinternet.com

Simon Forster