Paul Barber reflects on the season

The deputy chairman and chief executive looked back on the season in his final programme notes of the campaign.

By Paul Barber • 25 May 2024

By Paul Hazlewood
Deputy chairman and chief executive Paul Barber.

It has, of course, been another historic season for the football club as we played in European competition for the very first time. Our Europa League campaign has created memories that will last a lifetime for all of us, and we certainly enjoyed the experience. And there can be no doubt we have all been left wanting more. It was a competition the team grew into and finishing top of our group against established European campaigners AEK Athens, Ajax and Marseille filled us with immense pride. A huge thanks goes to Roberto De Zerbi, his staff, and, of course, the players for the way they performed throughout the competition.

AS Roma – another club whose players have vast European know-how – proved a step too far at the Round-of-16 stage, but it was nice to bow out with a victory at the Amex, thanks to Danny Welbeck’s superb goal. We were delighted to announce that Danny has penned a new two-year deal at the club as his experience and ability continues to inspire the players around him. We are also delighted that James Milner has signed a new one-year deal and I know he is keen to get playing again after a season curtailed by injury.

By Paul Hazlewood
James Milner and Danny Welbeck have extended their contracts with Albion.

James followed in the footsteps of his former Liverpool team-mate Adam Lallana, who, after four years, will be leaving us at the end of his contract this summer. While we are all sad to see him go, we totally understand and appreciate that family comes first. As I mentioned in my notes for Wednesday evening’s match [against Chelsea], Adam departs with our very best wishes, given his immense contribution both on and off the pitch, and he will always be welcome back at the Amex.

European football has, inevitably, impacted our Premier League campaign. We have had to adjust to the extra games, extra travelling, quick turnarounds, more limited rest-and-recovery periods, and a growing injury list that has certainly affected performances and results.

These are, however, all lessons we can learn from, and we have already taken steps by appointing Florian Pfab as the club’s new head of medicine and Gary Walker as our new head of performance ahead of next season.

With our injury issues, Roberto had to call on members of our U21 squad sooner than he would have anticipated, but it has been a joy to see Jack Hinshelwood make such a big impact prior to his injury, while Benicio Baker-Boaitey, Josh Duffus, Jack Hinchy, Mark O’Mahony, Odel Offiah and Cameron Peupion have all made first-team appearances this season. The pathway from our academy to the first team continues to flourish and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the coaches and staff at the American Express Elite Football Performance Centre, led by academy manager Ian Buckman, for their continued hard work and dedication.

By James Boardman
Mark O'Mahony made his full Premier League debut against Bournemouth.

So many call-ups to the first-team squad have inevitably impacted Shannon Ruth and our under-21 side, but they can be proud of their achievements this season – reaching the Premier League 2 knockout stages, performing so well in the Premier League International Cup and progressing further than the club has ever done before in the Football League Trophy (in its current guise).

Congratulations are also extended to Inigo Calderon, whose under-18s have enjoyed a solid season, highlighted by a recent five-game winning streak, which included a thumping 6-0 win at Aston Villa and 6-2 defeat of Norwich City. It has been a delight to welcome Calde back to the club and I’m sure he will continue to have a big impact on our young players as he settles further into the role.

Although we didn’t finish as high in the Women’s Super League as we would have hoped, our women’s first team enjoyed a better second half of the season following the appointment of Mikey Harris as interim head coach in early February. His possession-based attacking style of play was one the players certainly thrived in, and we now hope we can build on the momentum the team has gained into next season.

Congratulations are extended to top scorer Elisabeth Terland, who was named our women’s first-team Player of the Season and, of course, to Pascal Gross, who was named our men’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season. Both were worthy winners at our Players’ Awards evening a couple of weeks ago.

By Paul Hazlewood
Elisabeth Terland won the Player of the Season award.

Elsewhere, the Brighton & Hove Foundation moved its community-focused staff and operations away from the American Express Stadium this season, relocating into the city centre and right at the heart of the community it serves. Indeed, the club’s official charity continues to make a huge impact on people in Brighton and Hove, likewise throughout Sussex, and I would like to congratulate CEO Matt Dorn and everyone at the Foundation for the fantastic work they have done this season and all year round.

While the close season always brings new arrivals and departures among the playing staff, we also bid farewell this summer to club directors Derek Chapman and Marc Sugarman. Both lifelong Albion fans, it has been a pleasure to work alongside them on the board, where their expertise and knowledge in their chosen fields has helped us become the club we are today. Derek, of course, played a key role in the stadium and training ground builds, which he should be immensely proud of, and you can read more about both men elsewhere in today’s programme.

We also say goodbye to men’s first-team player care lead Steve Gibbon, who is leaving after 15 years with the club. I know ‘Gibbo’ will be sorely missed by the entire first-team squad, who he works so closely with, and there are tributes elsewhere in today’s programme.

By Paul Hazlewood
Steve Gibbon with Pascal Gross.

Ahead of our final game of the season, it would be remiss of me not to thank all of our staff for their fantastic efforts in one of the club’s busiest and most challenging seasons, my board colleagues, who provide so much support and encouragement, and, of course, the chairman: Tony continues to provide incredible and generous backing to our club, and provides a constant source of leadership, inspiration and friendship.

Finally, I would like to thank you, the fans, for your continued support this season. We have consistently sold out here at the Amex and on our travels, which is no mean feat in a cost-of-living crisis. We have also sold out of general admission season tickets for next season – further evidence of the progress we are making – and we look forward to providing you all with more wonderful memories as the 2024/25 season gets underway.

In the meantime, enjoy your summer and enjoy the Euros!