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Talking Point: Albion's season reaches a crossroads
10:06am Monday 20th January 2014 in Sport
In today's Albion analysis chief sports reporter Andy Naylor argues the season has reached a crossroads. Do you agree?
Here is a taste of what he wrote.
The 12 days remaining in the January transfer window will indicate how ambitious the hierarchy are to get promoted this season.
Or whether they are content with a more gradual climb towards the Premier League.
Many of the new and impatient fans now filling The Amex will be expecting the former. They may start drifting away if they are kept waiting for too long.
Longer-serving and more level-headed supporters will be satisfied with the latter, recognising the vast strides made by the club in recent years and the benefit of reaching the top flight once you are better equipped to remain there.
Slowly, slowly is fine - as long as you do not at the same time encourage unrealistic expectation. That places undue and unfair pressure on Oscar Garcia.
Chief executive Paul Barber's buzz phrase for the club has been 'Premier League ready'. Chairman Tony Bloom told a fans' forum at The Amex before a ball had been kicked he was certain Albion had a squad capable of promotion and that "we're not going to be happy" with a finish outside the play-offs.
So seventh, where the Seagulls are now, will not be good enough, working with a mid-table wage budget?
Albion have not acted so far during the January transfer window like a club entitled to expect a top six finish.
A striker comparable in standard to, or better, than Barnes is a must. Albion also have to compensate for the loss of Crofts' goals and box-to-box energy.
It will be risky to have three recognised centre-halves, instead of four, after El-Abd's departure and they should thrash out a deal with Poyet's Sunderland sooner rather than later to draw a line under the Bridcutt saga and reinvest the funds from his sale. It will not help Oscar to have a so obviously disenchanted player for the rest of the season.
A banana skin FA Cup tie against Micky Adams' Port Vale is up next, followed by two more tough away trips to Burnley and Watford.
The transfer window will be over by the time Albion return to The Amex against Doncaster. We will have a better idea by then whether finishing in the play-offs is a realistic target or wishful thinking.
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