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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020

'His attributes are unique' - Brighton boss says Irish teen star Connolly must be managed carefully

‘It’s probably a bit unfair for us to just expect him to be available for every single minute.’

Potter on Connolly: 'I don’t think we have anyone else like him in the group.'
Potter on Connolly: 'I don’t think we have anyone else like him in the group.'
Image: Andrew Matthews

BRIGHTON AND HOVE Albion boss Graham Potter has explained Irish star Aaron Connolly’s absence from first-team squads, and stressed the importance of managing the young striker’s workload as he continues to develop.

The 19-year-old has had a breakthrough season at the Seagulls, bursting onto the scene in October when he bagged a brace against Tottenham in his first Premier League start.

Subsequently, Connolly forced his way into Mick McCarthy’s Ireland senior team, making his full debut off the bench against Georgia before starting against Switzerland.

Though the Galway native hasn’t scored for Brighton since that double against Spurs and has struggled with injury, Potter has been highly impressed by his overall contribution. 

It has been a steep learning curve and Connolly’s minutes have been limited at times, with Potter explaining why he was left out of the squad for last weekend’s game against Everton. 

He could return to the matchday squad against Aston Villa tomorrow, but the Brighton boss insists that he must nurture the teen star carefully.

“We must remember that he’s still only 19 years old, he’s learning the game and learning how to be a Premier League footballer,” Potter said.

“That’s just a natural process because this time last year he was playing in the U23s.

aaron-connolly-dejected-after-the-game Connolly after the Switzerland game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“He’s taken a step up to play in the most competitive league in the world so it’s probably a bit unfair for us to just expect him to be available for every single minute.

We need to help him improve and be a better player and professional, but his attributes are unique and he brings something different. I don’t think we have anyone else like him in the group.

Brighton are just three points ahead of tomorrow’s opponents, Villa, with the sides going head-to-head at the Amex [KO 3pm].

“They played the champions last weekend and that type of result can happen,” Potter added of Villa, who were beaten 6-1 by City at home last time out. “They had some good results before that, so we know they’ll want to respond to last Sunday.

We know we have to attack and defend well. They’ve moved to a back five recently and that can mean it’s sometimes tough to create chances. They have good players and when you lose the ball they can hurt you, that’s just the nature of the Premier League and so we have to be on our game to get a result.

“It’s been nice to have a full week of training after a busy Christmas period and we’ve had a lot of time for prepare for the game, so we feel good in that respect,” he also noted.

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Emma Duffy

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