Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton says that Dale Stephens’s importance to the side is understated.
The central midfielder has been a key part of the team that the Albion boss has fielded during his time at the club so far, winning promotion to the Premier League in 2017 and maintaining the club’s top-flight status last season.
He said, “Dale’s been a mainstay during my time here, and he’s an underrated part of the side.
“You only have to look at the number of games he’s played in recent seasons – we’ve changed the shape slightly and he’s still been a consistent part of the midfield.
“But that comes with the territory – there are players who will sometimes get the headlines and there’ll always be individuals that may not necessarily get that attention.
“Whenever you speak to opposition managers they’ll recognise the work that he does, but the most important thing for us is his standing here within our group.
Burnley visit the Amex Stadium this afternoon having come into form since the turn of the year, and Hughton highlighted that their tough start to the campaign is an indication of the rigours of England’s top flight.
“Their start to the season can happen, when you may not have the depth in the squad of some of the other teams in the division then it’s very difficult.
“It shows the nature of this league, when you’re a top six club you can cope with Europe and midweek matches because of the numbers you'll have.
“When you’re not and you add it into the mix whilst you’re still trying to ply your trade in a difficult division, then it’s tough. It probably serves as a warning as to how difficult this league is – you’ll always have lower periods so it’s about coming through those.”
The contest against Sean Dyche’s side today begins a sequence of matches which sees the Seagulls face bottom-half opponents in each of their next four league outings on home soil.
Hughton recognised the significance of the upcoming period and stressed the importance of making that home advantage count over the coming few months.
“Every period will have a bearing on the season, but I accept that our home form is going to be key.
“When you have home games against sides around you in the division, in theory, you have more chance of getting results.
“It’s a spell that we’re going through that will give us a chance to pick up points – but you have to be able to go and do that on the pitch.”
Tickets for this weekend’s game remain on general sale.
Supporters can secure their tickets on BrightonAndHoveAlbion.com/Tickets and via the Albion Booking Line at 0844 327 1901*.
There is a £1.50 per ticket booking fee for in person and telephone sales, while a charge of £1 per ticket applies to online purchases.
Seagull Travel will be running a coach to the fixture with a number of pick-up points across East and West Sussex. A full list of pick-up locations and bookings for all upcoming games can be found here, along with prices.
*Calls to the Albion Booking Line are charged at seven pence per minute plus your network access charge.