If you wound the clock back ten years and had to call the result of a match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Leeds United, only the most ardent of Seagulls fans would have plumped for a home win. Yet these days the balance has been very much redressed, a combination of Leeds’ financial meltdown and some shrewd stewardship of the south coast club has seen to that.
When Gustavo Poyet took charge of Brighton – his first managerial post – in November 2009 the club were in Legue One and hovering just above the trapdoor into the lowest rung of English football’s professional ladder.
Within two years the Uruguayan has not only secured the League One title but is now seeing his team being tipped for a playoff spot in the Championship and possibly even automatic promotion to the Premier League. That enthusiasm was tempered slightly by last weekend’s defeat to Leicester but there seems to be genuine belief that the Seagulls can reach the Promised Land.
Of course, the top flight is Poyet’s natural habitat having been part of the initial era of glamorous foreign recruitment at Chelsea in the mid-to-late 1990s – the same era as Ruud Gullit, Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Di Matteo and Gianluca Vialli – that saw him win two FA Cups, a League Cup and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup while also laying the foundations for Roman Abramovich’s investment and a torrent of subsequent trophies at Stamford Bridge.Following that there was a successful three-year spell at Tottenham that saw him wind down his career.
Tonight he will be looking to gun down another former employer. Poyet served as Dennis Wise’s assistant during their controversial reign at Elland Road but while the Londoner was never fully accepted in Yorkshire due to his Chelsea connections, the locals warmed to the South American.
Nevertheless, there will be little time for sentiment when the teams meet at The Amex with three points the only thing on the agenda for both Brighton and Leeds.