CONSIDERING Pool really need a win to keep their play-off chances on track, the next sentence doesn’t make for pleasant reading.
Brighton are unbeaten in the league in 2012 and tomorrow are likely to give a start to a Spaniard with 38 caps for his country and who, on his day, is easily the best striker in the Championship. Gulp.
Vicente (you know players are good when they are known by their surname) spent 11 seasons in La Liga with Valencia.
Seagulls boss Gus Poyet, outlining his big ambitions for the club after promotion to the Championship, persuaded free agent Vicente to come to England ... and cue much excitement around the Brighton area.
Unfortunately it’s not quite gone to plan. A succession of injuries has restricted Vicente to just two starts (his last came in October) and nine appearances from the bench.
On the plus-side for Albion – and the downside for Pool – the Spaniard has undergone a rigorous series of fitness tests in the last month and is said to be fitter than at any point during the campaign.
He proved as much by coming off the bench last week and turning Brighton’s game against Portsmouth on its head, scoring two fine goals and securing victory. He is in line to start tomorrow.
“It has been frustrating for him because he came here to play football,” said Poyet after last week’s masterclass.
“He had options to go to bigger clubs and earn more money but he chose us because he was convinced it was the right place to play football.
“Let’s hope we have him now from the next game to the end of the season.”
Poyet is a manager with similar thinking to Ian Holloway. He believes he has a quality squad, with no set best 11, and makes changes from game to game as he sees fit.
Like Holloway, he has a particular embarrassment of riches going forward.
Ashley Barnes is the main striker (top scorer with 12), but there is also Craig Makail-Smith (10 goals), Craig Noone (subject of a £1.2m bid from Cardiff in January), £1m signing from Watford Will Buckley and the talented Kazenga LuaLua, younger brother of Blackpool’s Lomana.
Poyet further strengthened his attacking options during the transfer window, bringing in loan players Sam Vokes from Wolves and Gai Assulin, a 20-year-old from Manchester City who had previously been at Barcelona.
He also added another City youngster – 19-year-old Ivory Coast midfielder Abdul Razak, being groomed at Eastlands as Yaya Toure’s long-term replacement.
Brighton have been in excellent form since the turn of the year, beating the likes of Southampton, Leicester and Leeds. They also knocked Newcastle out of the FA Cup.
They have been beaten once though – hammered in the Cup 6-1 by Liverpool.
Last five: Blackpool LLDWL Brighton WDDWD