Sidwell: Difficult start for De Zerbi in Albion

Former Brighton midfielder Steve Sidwell admits current Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi has faced a difficult situation at the club.

Sidwell played 67 times for the Seagulls, in separate spells at both ends of his playing career, during which he made over 500 appearances.

And ahead of this weekend’s clash at the Amex Stadium with another of his former teams, Chelsea, Sidwell spoke to the Italy head coach.

De Zerbi is five games without a win since replacing Graham Potter, who is nine games unbeaten for the Stamford Bridge club.

And Sidwell told BBC Radio Sussex’s Albion Unlimited podcast: “It’s so difficult, you step into a place that’s really unprecedented, in terms of stepping into an environment, a culture, a football club that’s working, that’s not broke is and you don’t need to fix it.

“It’s usually like this, you’d get a job because someone got fired for the wrong reasons. Very difficult for him.

“He’s going to want to put his own stamp on it when he gets to a place where it works. Players have to adapt. Nobody likes change.

“I thought they got out of the traps beautifully against Liverpool and it was difficult not to get away with the three points.

“But I think for de Zerbi himself he wants to get that first win.”

Former Arsenal youngster Sidwell first made his name at Reading after stints on loan at Brentford and Brighton and then made 25 appearances for Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2007-8.

He then worked for Aston Villa, Fulham and Stoke before returning to Albion on another loan, which later became permanent, and played a huge part in helping Chris Hughton’s side gain promotion to the Premier League.

However, back and ankle injuries forced him to miss the 2017-18 season and he retired from playing to take up the role of ambassador and youth development coach at Albion, with Potter replacing Hughton on the first team manager’s hotseat in May 2019.

And Sidwell wasn’t surprised by Potter’s move to west London – or by the success he’s had since succeeding Thomas Tuchel.

“When that opportunity arises, it’s very difficult to turn down,” he added.

“I know things have been very good here, the environment has been great, the culture has been great, the working relationship Graham has had, not just with the players but also upstairs, it’s all been coordinated and it’s got to be a difficult one decision for him to have been make.

“But this chance to be in the Champions League and to be in charge of one of the top clubs in English football, especially at this last generation, is very difficult to turn down.

“If you do well, especially in the Premier League where the profile is so high, especially globally, you will be touted and you will get a lot of praise for what he has done.

“I wasn’t surprised he took it, nor am I surprised at how well they did.”

Sidwell is realistic about what reaction Potter will get from Albion fans when he returns to the south coast this weekend.

“Probably mixed. I would imagine the majority will respect it because you have to,” he said.

“You ask everyone in every working product if they get a better opportunity to work somewhere in a better company, not necessarily money and finances – it doesn’t matter at all, or sometimes it does – you have to take that opportunity.

“I think the majority will be fine. There will be an odd one or two, and you would expect that too.” Sidwell: Difficult start for De Zerbi in Albion

Fry Electronics Team

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