Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Dale Stephens is looking forward to returning to former club Charlton Athletic as the Seagulls take on the Addicks at The Valley this evening, kick-off 7.45pm.
The central midfielder plied his trade for the south Londoners for two-and-a-half seasons and made 90 appearances for the club before making the switch to the south coast in the January transfer window of 2014, and he looked back on his time in the capital fondly.
He said, “It’s a club I know very well, and it will be good to see a few familiar faces in terms of players and staff, although there has been a big turnaround since I was there.
“I still know Chris Solly and Johnnie Jackson who’s obviously on the coaching side now, so it will be good to see them.”
Stephens made the switch to The Valley in the summer of 2011 when manager Chris Powell made a host of close season signings shortly after taking charge at the club – and it would be a season to remember for the now Albion man, as Charlton won League One with 101 points in the 2011/12 campaign.
“When I signed I was one of a number of new faces, and it was a good year for everyone involved with the club because we won the league.
“I think that the manager, Chris Powell, had got the job six months before and he managed to get 15 new players in during the summer and we had a good season.
“We didn't lose many matches and set a new points record for that league at the time – Wolves broke it a few years afterwards but it was a successful season and probably one of my favourite campaigns of my career.
“It’s a period I look back on fondly because when you achieve things like titles and promotions, you’re never sure where the next one is going to come from – luckily I’ve had another one here with Brighton since then but it’s always a period that I’ll look back on with good memories.”
The midfielder has so far featured for Chris Hughton’s side against FC St Gallen and also in the game with AFC Wimbledon at the weekend, and he reflected on the pre-season tour of Austria as well as the schedule so far as a whole.
“Pre-season has been tough so far and we had a tough trip to Austria where we were training three times a day – it wasn’t a holiday that’s for sure!
“We knew it would be testing and then we’ve worked hard when we’ve come back to training here in England as well.
“We’ve got a few games coming up now which is always nice because you always prefer to play matches than to train three times a day.”
The former Charlton Athletic man played every minute of Premier League football last season as the Seagulls achieved a 15th placed finish in their debut season in the division, and the 29-year-old insisted that the side could make progress on their exploits last term.
“The aim for me and the team has to improve on last year – both as a club and as a squad of players.
“Every side will add to what they have and get stronger throughout the years, it always happens and it’s no secret.
“Teams will get better players and better squads, but we’ll be looking to do that as well and for us, we feel like we can improve on last year.”