Here we go again. The season is nearly upon us and I for one can’t wait.
I know many may feel the season starts too early but when it is just 24 or 48 hours away I think fans, players and the media can’t help but get excited.
The EFL and non-league are underway but as Albion begin their second season in the top flight much will be made of whether they have what it takes to avoid second season syndrome.
Has the momentum of promotion diminished? Are the Seagulls no longer a surprise package? The main question for me however is has the club progressed? In short, the answer has to be yes.
The chairman has invested around £50million into the squad. Players with international and World Cup experience have arrived. Of course that doesn’t guarantee a third season in the Premier League but any club simply cannot stand still.
Clubs need to be prudent and not overspend but work has to be done in all areas on an off the pitch. The manager must get the new signings to settle and form partnerships with current players, and fast. In addition the chairman and management team appear to have fended off any attentions for their key players.
One huge bonus for the Seagulls last season was that they generally kept their head above the relegation zone and psychologically had a cushion between them and the drop. The target will be a minimum of 17th once again but the benchmark will be their 15th placed finish and points tally of 40 points.
I do think last season was exceptional in the bottom half of the table and I don’t see as many teams being involved in the battle for survival but there will also still be question marks over other teams.
Can Wolves fulfil their potential? Can Fulham play the same type of football in the Premier League? Will Cardiff have enough quality as well as grit to stay up? Huddersfield and Newcastle who avoided the drop after promotion alongside the Seagulls also have challenges to overcome, with a toxic atmosphere at St James’ Park at the start of August.
Many followers of the Premier League will focus on whether Liverpool, or others, can prevent a rampant Manchester City retaining the title but once again the fate of Chris Hughton’s side will rest on how they perform against their true rivals.
The win over Manchester United sealed safety at the end of last season and any extra points against the top six will be welcome but some things won’t change. The matches against bottom half sides will be key to survival and 40 points may be enough.
They can certainly improve the away form and I’m sure plans are in place to have more variety on their travels to ensure more than just two wins.
Whatever comes along in the next 10 months, there will no doubt be ups and downs but as I always say ‘enjoy the ride’.
Here at BBC Sussex we will be there every step of the way with Sussex Sport, the Final Whistle and Albion Unlimited. We hope you enjoy the season and our coverage and if you see us out and about come and say hello!
Keep smiling and be lucky. JC.