'We'll hold our heads high in Europe'

Lewis Dunk and James Milner reflect on our Europa League group stage draw.

By Nick Szczepanik • 10 September 2023

By Paul Hazlewood
Lewis Dunk and James Milner.

Lewis Dunk is looking forward to his first taste of European football later this month, while James Milner has vast experience of facing continental opposition.  

Both are confident that Albion can do well in their Europa League ties after being drawn against AEK Athens, Marseille and Ajax. 

“We came in from training and watched it in the changing room,” the skipper said. “It’s a good draw: three challenging games which we are looking forward to, and we can win, because we’ve shown in the Premier League we can beat anyone.  

“So we’ll go into Europe with confidence high. The gaffer always demands that we show what we’re about. I know we’ve never been there as a football club. But we’ll go in there holding our heads high, to win games.” 

By England
Lewis Dunk is currently on international duty with England.

Part of his confidence comes from the signings of Ansu Fati on loan from Barcelona and Carlos Baleba from Lille. 

“We’ve shown over the years that we recruit well,” he said. “They’ll be a massive boost to the squad. They’re two big talents who will bring a lot to this football club.  

“They’re going to have to be open-minded and learn off the gaffer like we’ve all done. If they do that they’ll fit in perfectly.” 

The idea of Albion signing Barcelona’s number ten and the Catalan club’s youngest scorer would have seemed outlandish when the club was struggling to survive while playing in the lower divisions at Gillingham or at Withdean Stadium. 

“Bit mad, eh?” Dunk said. “It’s like Europe as well, it’s a bit surreal for Brighton and Brighton fans. Signing players like that is a credit to the club.  

By Paul Hazlewood
James Milner joined us in the summer.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work, from top to bottom of the football club. Everyone’s been a part of the journey, and everyone’s enjoying the ride.” 

Milner has played in three Champions League finals with Liverpool, winning one, and also appeared in a Europa League final. So he is well-placed to assess Albion’s chances. 

“It is a good draw, with some clubs with real European pedigree in the group,” he agreed.  “And when we get there we’ll be fully focused and the team has potential to do very well in the competition. But we want to do well in all of the competitions. 

“There is competition for places and we will need that this season with the amount of games. Every time anyone gets a chance to play they must play well to stay in the team, and that’s what you want.  

“The team doesn’t get weaker. The squad is brimming with talent and players desperate to play.”