Head coach Carlos Carvalhal has praised the job Chris Hughton has done in transforming Brighton and Hove Albion’s fortunes ahead of this afternoon’s encounter at Hillsborough.
When Hughton was appointed Seagulls boss at the end of 2014, the Sussex club were languishing in the lower reaches of the Championship table.
But Hughton led Brighton to safety and managed to turn them into promotion candidates. After kicking off the 2015/16 season with a club-record 21-match unbeaten run, Hughton guided the Seagulls to third in his first full campaign in charge, culminating in the former Newcastle United and Norwich City chief being named Championship manager of the year by the League Managers’ Association on Monday.
Ultimately, Brighton missed out on automatic promotion to the Premier League on goal difference before Wednesday ended their hopes of going up, defeating them 3-1 on aggregate in the Play-Off Semi-Finals.
Carvalhal said: “Chris is a gentleman and I like him a lot as a person. He’s a very good coach. He deserved to win the best manager in the competition. He deserved what he achieved.
“Chris was a little unlucky. His team missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference but his team had a fantastic season.”
Wednesday will fancy their chances of picking up a fourth consecutive home win, having not lost any of their last nine matches league matches (including Play-Offs) against Brighton but Carvalhal is refusing to take them lightly.
“Brighton are a very balanced, organised team,” admitted Carvalhal, who is boosted by the news Daniel Pudil (thigh) and Sam Hutchinson (back) are available for selection. “It will be a hard, tactical game.
“They have scored 12 goals like us and only conceded six.
“We must be patient and manage the ball well. We must be very clever to play against them. We will try to protect our team when they have the ball.”
Carvalhal fondly recalls the Play-Off battles the Owls had with Brighton last May.
He said: “We had good memories from the game at Hillsborough. We did absolutely fantastic. Our fans made a big impact to help us win the game. We won 2-0 and played very, very well. It was a fantastic night.
“The second game was a big pain in the opening 30 to 35 minutes because of the way Brighton played and the press they put to us. I felt on the bench like I wanted to do something but I couldn’t. We were in a very hard and dangerous situation but we scored the goal to make it 1-1 and I was more comfortable.”