The 21-year-old has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign so far by seamlessly slotting into Graham Potter’s plans and being named in the senior Colombia national squad yesterday, and Rusk identified the maturity in his game when he arrived at the club from Leyton Orient little over two years ago.
He said, “I watched him play live with John Morling [academy manager] and I saw some clips of him that were provided by Sam Jewell from our recruitment team, and I saw that he had a lot of maturity on the ball.
“He was someone that released the ball at the right times, and his personality meant that he was a very level headed and a very coachable character.”
“He has a simplicity about how he thinks about the game,” Ruth added. “He is always willing and brave enough to influence a game. He wants to get better because he loves playing football.
“He was also someone who arrived here with a lot of natural attributes. He hid the ball well and was very hard to dispossess. His experiences at Leyton Orient, Swindon and now Brighton, have refined his game and he’s improving all the time.”
Much has been made of Alzate’s adaptability and being able to slot into a number of different positions, and Rusk says those qualities were evident during his time with the under-23s.
“To become adaptable, we try to prepare and develop our players for many different levels so there are no shocks, and that there are no surprises when they go into the first team.
“In Steven’s case, we pushed him very hard. He has played as a centre forward for us, as well as being out wide and in central midfield too.
“He performed admirably in most positions, but more so in defensive midfield. His experience out on loan with Swindon also helped him and allowed him to become even more versatile.”
Ruth highlighted how in tune Alzate was to the tactical information relayed to him, and was keen to understand the intricacies involved in every position on the pitch.
“We spend a lot of time in the analysis room and use the tactics board, where we relay position-specific information to each player," he continued.
“Steve is someone that would listen to all the information we provided, so if he ever found himself in a different position, he would know what to do.
“It goes back to how much he loves the game, and how he perceives it. His ability to take tactical information on board really works to his advantage, which means that he usually makes the right decisions on the pitch.”
Alzate’s versatility at the highest level was clear to see in the recent 3-2 win over Everton, where the youngster was deployed at left-wing back and in central midfield, and Rusk was delighted to see endless of hours of work on the training ground coming to fruition.
“He’s a good player with a brilliant football brain. What’s good for us, is is that we see Steven doing things time and time again on the training pitch, which you see him do out there on the pitch in a Premier League game.
“He gets the ball, and you think to yourself, ‘I know what he’s going to do here.’ It’s great to see that he’s using the solutions and strategies that you taught him at the top level.
“Football is a simple game and Steven is doing the same things now compared to what he did at Swindon, with our under-23s and at Leyton Orient too.
“He has an ability to be emotionally level in most situations. After his debut and man-of-the-match performance against Newcastle, he’s exactly the same and that won’t change.”