Former Brighton & Hove Albion captain Gordon Greer highlighted the potential he always saw in Lewis Dunk during his time at the club, but admitted it took the central defender a few seasons to show his best qualities.
Greer spent six seasons alongside Dunk on the south coast, and watched the now-England international work his way into Albion’s first-team plans, before partnering the homegrown talent in his final match for the club.
Dunk could lead the Seagulls out at Wembley Stadium on Saturday afternoon, depending on Chris Hughton’s team selection against Manchester City, and Greer reflected on his earliest memories of the academy product.
He said, “Dunky was always a very good player, he was part of the squad when I first joined in League One.
“We were lucky at that time, we had Steve Cook, who has gone on to do really well, then Dunky, who was ahead of Cooky, and also Tommy Elphick.
“But Dunky was the pick of the bunch. It took him a few years though, he only settled in as a regular first-team starter during the season before I left the club.
“The year we struggled, when Chris Hughton first came in, Dunky was a starter that year and I played alongside him most of the season, but we struggled at times to keep the ball out.
“Chris came in around Christmas and tried to get us more organised. He signed a few good players the following season and that was the year when Dunky really came into his own.
“The year we just missed out on promotion, Dunky kicked on massively and transformed from a young lad into somebody that could show everyone what he could do.”
Albion take on the reigning Premier League champions in Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup semi-final, and Greer believes the two clubs will have different mindsets when approaching the contest.
“There’s an opportunity there, because it’s just 11-v-11, and it really is about who turns up on the day. I’m sure the lads will be buzzing for it.
“I don’t think City will be treating the game in the same way Brighton will be approaching it. City will treat it like a semi-final, whereas Brighton will treat it like more of a final.
“It’s such a massive task to go and beat Man City at Wembley, but if you’re asking me can it be done, then of course it can be done. Teams have done it in the past.
“The fans will be thinking ‘this is our big opportunity against Man City at Wembley’ — if they beat City then it’s amazing and the club will be in the actual final.
Greer departed Albion in 2016 after his contract expired on the south coast, but after watching the club closely over the following years, the Scotsman admitted how impressed he’s been with the implementation of Tony Bloom’s visions.
“It’s amazing to see the club succeed after the vision that the chairman had. At times when I was there, we were selling a lot of our big players and bringing in other players.
“I just wanted us to splash the cash on a few players to get us into the Premier League, but when I look back now, Tony Bloom is such a shrewd guy.
“He’s done such a good job with the club and put all the infrastructure in place, with the Amex and the training ground. I really admire what he’s done to the club.
“He obviously had a long-term plan and it’s come to fruition. Sometimes when you’re in it, you don’t always see the long-term plan, you just see the here and now.
“But now I can look back and see what his vision was, and it’s amazing to see. He deserves a lot of credit.”