Belfast Telegraph

5 things Brighton need to do ahead of their return to the top flight

Brighton will return to the top flight next season for the first time in 34 years after securing promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at where the Seagulls may need to improve in order to compete in the Premier League.

1. Bring in Premier League experience

Chris Hughton's squad is light on players who have previously played in the top flight and the manager may have to address that if they are to stay there for a second season. Goalkeeper David Stockdale, defender Liam Rosenior and midfielder Steve Sidwell are the only former Premier League regulars in the ranks, while top-scorer Glenn Murray struggled to be prolific as a bit-part player for Crystal Palace and Bournemouth. Defender Shane Duffy, winger Anthony Knockaert and on-loan full-back Sebastien Pocognoli have also had a taste of England's highest division but they were far from successful during their limited appearances.

2. Refresh an ageing squad

Age and experience often go hand in hand and while the Seagulls need the latter, they could also do with injecting a bit more youth into their squad. Before the year is out, captain Bruno will be 37, Sidwell will turn 35 and star striker Murray will be 34. Israel international forward Tomer Hemed will also be the wrong side of 30 when the new season kicks off, along with keepers Stockdale, Casper Ankergren and Niki Maenpaa and defenders Rosenior and Uwe Hunemeier.

3. Make Knockaert Premier League class

Playmaker Knockaert was Albion's stand-out man this season but his previous Premier League campaign was forgettable. The Frenchman was promoted with Leicester in 2014 but Foxes manager Nigel Pearson handed him just three league starts the following year, preferring the creative talents of Riyad Mahrez. Knockaert, who found himself back in England via a spell in Belgium with Standard Liege, will be as desperate to prove Pearson wrong as Albion will be for him to become a genuine top-flight talent.

4. Huge test for Hughton

Albion boss Hughton still has work to do to establish himself as a top-flight manager and will be keen to make sure he still is one come the end of next season. His two previous spells as a Premier League manager both ended in him being sacked, although many felt he was treated extremely harshly by both Newcastle and Norwich. Given the wonders he has worked on the south coast, you would expect the Seagulls to be more patient. It will then be up to Hughton to prove he has the credentials to stay at the top.

5. Someone new between the sticks?

Goalkeeper Stockdale has been an almost ever-present at the Amex Stadium this season but will he be good enough to perform consistently at the next level? As previously mentioned, the 31-year-old has played in the Premier League before but his main run of appearances came when Fulham were relegated in 2014 having conceded 85 goals. Back-up keepers Ankergren and Meenpaa do not look to be providing sufficient competition so it may be the Seagulls attempt to recruit a new number one.

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