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Club News


12 May 2018

Kieran Cleeves
Albion under-23 coach Simon Rusk on the training pitch.

Brighton & Hove Albion under-23 coach Simon Rusk insists his players must stick to their principles and believe in themselves, as they take on Aston Villa in the Premier League 2 Division 2 Play-Off Final at Villa Park this afternoon.

The Seagulls come up against the Villans with a place in the Premier League 2 Division 1 up for grabs, and Rusk is both focused and excited ahead of today’s promotion showdown.

He said, “It’s a great game to grow from. We’re there now, so we want to win it. It’s a great game for the players to be involved in and also for us as a group of staff.

“It’s a cup final - we believe in our principles, we believe in what we do with the ball and also what we do without it.

“We’ll stick to those principles and do them as best as we can on the day. If we do it to the levels we know we’re capable of, we won’t be too far away from a result.

“But it’s going to be a tough game, because Aston Villa will have all of the same priorities as us, in terms of winning the game. We’ve just got to believe in what we do.”

Albion are 16 matches unbeaten - within 90 minutes - and Rusk urged his players to continue showing their creative spark on the pitch, while also carrying out their jobs as a team to secure victory at Villa Park.

“There has to be an element of the players expressing themselves in any game that they play. When you move towards elite football, there’s always that element of tactical knowledge as well.

“There will be individuals with jobs to do, and there will be team jobs - and that’s no different to any game that we play.

“It’s a balance. You want the players to have the freedom to express themselves, and you ultimately want the players to remain professional.”

Although Rusk is wary of Villa’s threat, the Albion coach prefers to remain focused on the strengths of his own team, as they look to give one final push and secure promotion to the top flight of under-23 football.

“They’re a team that have good individuals. They’ve been consistent in how they’ve played all season in the under-23 league.

“Like any decent team, there’s individuals that we have to take care of, but at the end of the day, I believe most good teams have a philosophy, and what we do will be far more important.

“I’m more worried about our level of performance instead of what Aston Villa are capable of. We’ll respect them but we certainly won’t fear them.”

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