The former Huddersfield forward will go up against the Terriers on Saturday as he looks to finally have a run of games in the English top flight
Izzy Brown had featured in the English top tier prior to the 2017-18 campaign, with a single substitute appearance for both West Brom and Chelsea, but his loan move to newly promoted Brighton & Hove Albion was supposed to be the platform on which he made a genuine mark on the English game.
Within 20 minutes of his Albion debut, however, Brown was forced to exit the game as a result of a hamstring injury against Man City on the season’s opening day.
“It was the first time it’s ever happened in my career,” Brown told The Argus. “So that was disappointing because I had just broken into the team. I had a good game against Atletico Madrid and was just building up my fitness. Then to get sent back [to Chelsea] for six weeks was difficult. The team was doing well in the time I was off and when I came back it was tough to get back in the team. Hopefully now I’ve put it in the manager’s thoughts that I can play on the left, I can play in the middle, so we’ll see what happens.”
Brown has certainly earned his way back into Chris Hughton’s thinking. On Saturday, the former Huddersfield forward was selected for Brighton’s home tie with Liverpool, his first start since an uninspiring appearance against Arsenal on October 1. Brown was handed a start on the left of Hughton’s midfield but was used almost as a wing-back as the hosts looked to soak up the Liverpool pressure; an entirely different role to the central, false-nine position he shouldered at the Emirates and much of last season in the Championship with Huddersfield.
And despite bearing the additional defensive responsibility, Brown proved an effective channel in attack – he would have ended the game with two assists had Glenn Murray made the most of the Chelsea loanee’s exquisite delivery. Albion would eventually lose the game 5-1 and Brown’s impact was subsequently diluted, though the performance had the markings of a player with a point to prove.
Brown is merely another victim of Chelsea’s gluttonous talent-hoarding and a long-term future at Stamford Bridge seems unlikely, despite former Blues boss Jose Mourinho suggesting the England youth star would be handed a fast-track into the first-team during his second spell in charge at the club.
But a successful spell in the second division with Huddersfield, with whom he secured the unlikeliest of Premier League promotions last term, indicated his readiness to test himself at the top.
Brown scored five goals in 20 league games for the Terriers in the second half of the season and was again a target for the club over the summer before opting to join Brighton on a season-long loan deal. This weekend, the 20-year-old will return to the John Smith’s Stadium to play against the team whose fans cheered him on a matter of months ago.
“All the Huddersfield fans are still tweeting me, saying, ‘come back, come back’, but my main focus is on Brighton,” he said. “After the play-off final I thought I was going to go back. But, as the summer went on, things didn’t start to work out the way it was meant to be.
“They wanted to buy me on a permanent [deal] and it wasn’t possible. I had a few meetings with the manager [Hughton] here and thought this was the club I wanted to join. So when it comes to the weekend I want us to win. That’s all I want to do, it’s a must-win game for us.”
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Brown will again have to oust both Jose Izquierdo and Solly March if he is to remain in the Albion starting XI for Saturday, or return to a central position in place of the immovable Pascal Gross. The club’s top scorer, Murray, is likely to keep his place at the head of the attack with Tomer Hemed in reserve. Brown’s inclusion in the travelling squad is almost guaranteed, injury permitting, but his spot in the XI is far less so.
Regardless of his contribution against the Terriers, though, Brown is again in a position to make a genuine impact in the Premier League.
Huddersfield fans are appreciative of the part Brown played in the club’s historic rise to the Premier League, while the Chelsea support are hopeful he somehow returns to west London in a position to step into the fold next season. However, it is Brighton who are likeliest to benefit from the England youth international as he goes about proving a point to those above him.