Former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Stephen Ward says that Lewis Dunk’s rise to prominence for the Seagulls comes as no great surprise to him.
The pair played together on the south coast during the 2013/14 Sky Bet Championship campaign for the Seagulls and will cross paths when Burnley visit the Amex Stadium this weekend, kick-off 5.30pm.
He said, “Lewis was someone I was close with – I always knew he was a good player. Both him and Jake [Forster-Caskey] were the two young players there at the time who I was close with.
“They both kept everyone going – Lewis was quite unlucky that season, given the fact he had a really experienced pair in Gordon Greer and Matt Upson ahead of him, but when he came in and got his chance you could see his talent.
“I knew once those two moved on he would become a mainstay in that team, it’s great to see him achieve what he has for both Brighton and England.”
The former Wolves defender made the switch south following six-and-a-half-years at Molineux, and at the time the Republic of Ireland international was the side’s longest-serving player.
But he revealed the switch to the south coast was one that was easy to make, and he reflected on his time with Albion fondly, as he made 47 appearances that year in all competitions.
“It wasn’t a tough decision to move to the club, there were a few factors at Wolves – they were looking to move some players on and freshen things up a bit.
“I was looking for a new club and a new challenge, I’d seen how Brighton had done the year before – I’d seen the way that they played and the way they approached the game.
“It was a great move for me and one I really enjoyed. I settled straight away and it’s a great place to live. It was a good group of lads – I didn’t know much about the club before I came down, but it was something I really enjoyed.
“It was a good season, the year before meant that the minimum expectation was the top six. There had been a lot of change in the summer and some new faces.
“From our point of view, we probably overachieved to get into the play-offs, but then we were hampered by a few injuries when we got to it, it was tough knowing how close we were.”
Having made his senior debut for England back in November, Dunk has become the second Albion player from that season to be capped by Gareth Southgate, along with Jesse Lingard who joined the club on loan in February.
Ward emphasised that the ability of the Manchester United man was evident from the outset, highlighting the midfielder’s importance to the team in the latter stages of the season.
“Jesse’s ability was very clear – you saw it straight away. He was young, but you could see his credentials, having come from a club like Manchester United, by the way he wanted to get on the ball and make things happen.
“He played a part in forging an important run in the second half of that season which saw us get into the play-offs, and to see what he’s doing now is great.
“He’s a regular for club and country now – you never know how far just talent can take a player, but you can see his hunger and motivation on the field and it’s no surprise to see how well he’s done.”
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.