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Stephens: Missing out drove us on

Albion midfielder says final-day heartbreak at Riverside in 2016 was the perfect catalyst for promotion to Premier League.

By Alex Stedman • 17 April 2020

By Paul Hazlewood
Dale Stephens heads to the changing room before the game with Wigan.

Dale Stephens believes that Albion’s promotion to the Premier League was fuelled by a determination to write the wrongs of the campaign before. 

The Seagulls had to settle for a place in the play-offs following defeat to Middlesbrough in May 2016 but bounced back three years ago today to secure their place in the Premier League for the first time following a 2-1 win over Wigan at the Amex. 

He said, “We went so close the year before and knew we weren’t far away from getting there.

“It’s quite unusual for a team to go so close to getting promoted and then achieving it the year after.

“In the past teams have lost heart and the wheels have come off, so the way we bounced back was really special. 

“We kept the core of the squad that we had and added to it in a few positions. On the first day of pre-season the message was to win promotion. We had that mindset from day one and wanted to make amends for missing out the year before.”

Stephens also pointed to the consistency of the squad as another key factor and says the settled nature of the group was important. 

“We’d played a lot of football together the season before and we had a strong relationship,” he added. 

“We had time to build up those relationships all over the field which I think really helped us. 

“The likes of Lewis [Dunk] and Shane [Duffy] at the back, the relationships between our full-backs and wingers, and three strikers up front who all pushed one another and were always scoring throughout the campaign.”

The midfielder, who made his 200th appearance for the club in November’s game with Leicester City at the Amex, says the win over Wigan which clinched promotion has been one of the standout moments of his career to date. 

“It’s right up there as one of the best days of my career so far, we put in a lot of hard work over the course of that season.

“To get rewarded at the end was a special feeling. We all watched the late game after between Derby and Huddersfield and the feeling when the full-time whistle went there, and we knew we were up was unbelievable.

“Everyone had their families there because of the occasion and it was great to be able to enjoy the success with everyone at the football club.”

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