Former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Guy Butters hailed the tremendous strides which the club has made in the past few years, and says Premier League football was a distant dream during his playing days with the Seagulls.
Butters was part of the Albion squad that completed a memorable escape from relegation from the Championship in 2005, and says the club has changed immeasurably in the last 12 years.
He said, “Back then we were still at Withdean and it would have been nearly impossible [reaching the Premier League].
“But saying that, I felt that our achievement of staying in the division with the resources we had in the Championship that season was a fantastic achievement in itself.
“We could have finished in mid-table that season, which would’ve been even better, but since then the club has moved on massively.
“The club has been Premier League ready in every other department for a number of years. We’ve got a fantastic training ground and stadium. All the infrastructure is here and now it’s brilliant to finally be in there.
“It’s a massive boost for the city too, and if you asked me back then if it was possible, I would have said no chance!”
Despite the massive challenge ahead for Albion next season, Butters feels that there will still be plenty of expectation amongst the fans, who are counting on the players to maintain the club’s top-flight status.
“In the bookies’ eyes, you’re one of the favourites to go straight back down, but the pressure is on from the fans to try and stay in the division.
“It’s a big test after winning regularly in the Championship, because unless you do a Leicester, you’re going to struggle in a few games. But at the same time, you hope that the players enjoy their football.
“A few of the teams that have recently gone up from the Championship like Watford, Burnley and Bournemouth, have all done well and weathered the storm.
“It will be interesting to see how we cope with those teams in particular, because when they were all in the Championship, I didn’t think there was a massive gap between us and them.”
Butters revealed the games he is eagerly anticipating the most next season, which includes two fixtures against his former club, Spurs.
“I will be looking out for the games against my old clubs, like Tottenham. I live in Southampton and that will be interesting as well, because a few people will be asking me for tickets! I’ve got a lot of family that are Man United fans too.
“Tottenham have come on really well in the last few seasons, so that will be a good test. But the thing I am really looking forward to is that are a lot of strong teams in this division that play good football, and some of those teams have some of the best players in the world.
“It will be a good opportunity to not only watch them, but to see how well we do against them and I’m really looking forward to it.”