Chris Hughton would take a 17th-placed finish right now

Brighton’s Irish manager says his most important target is avoiding relegation

Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton during a pre-season friendly match. Photograph: PA

Brighton & Hove Albion manager Chris Hughton during a pre-season friendly match. Photograph: PA

 

Brighton boss Chris Hughton says he would accept a 17th-placed finish in the Premier League without a ball being kicked.

The Seagulls start the new campaign at Watford on Saturday following a summer spending spree costing in excess of £60million which included the deadline-day arrival of Spanish defender Martin Montoya.

Albion finished seven points above the bottom three in 15th position last season after securing safety with two games to spare.

Despite the significant investment and arrival of nine new first-team players, Hughton admits avoiding relegation for the second successive year would constitute success.

“Would I take 17th? Probably the bigger part of me says yes because my role is responsibility to this club to make sure this club is in the Premier League the following season,” said Hughton.

“It’s always a little bit of an unfair question but ultimately we have to be in the division.

“Are we aiming to be in 17th? No. We will aim to be higher than that and to get in the best position we can.

“And, with the experiences of last season, I hope we can do that.

“We want to have the best season we can. But the most important thing by a mile is that we are in the Premier League next season.”

Albion could hand debuts to some of their new signings at Vicarage Road, with the likes of £17m club-record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Mali midfielder Yves Bissouma, who cost around £15m, pushing for starts.

Last season’s top scorer Glenn Murray has recovered from a knock to be in contention, but Romania forward Florin Andone, signed from Deportivo La Coruna, is definitely out with a groin injury, while Colombia winger Jose Izquierdo is working on his fitness following the World Cup.

Hughton’s team face a tricky beginning to the campaign, with fixtures against Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City coming before the end of next month.

“It’s a difficult start, four of the top six in the first seven games,” said Hughton.

“But the first one we have to think about is Watford on Saturday and trying to get a result there.

“We will go into every game looking to get something.

“There are a lot of challenges there for us and they start with the first game.”

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