Sammy Lee was not the only person missing when Albion started pre-season training at their gleaming new headquarters in Lancing yesterday.

So were two midfielders potentially central to Sami Hyypia's plans.

Andrew Crofts was accompanied by Dale Stephens on the injured list as the Seagulls got down to work under the new manager.

Albion had to abandon the official unveiling of Hyypia's No. 2 following Lee's sudden about-turn in joining Southampton instead.

Not only is Hyypia lacking an assistant, he will also be without Crofts and Stephens for some, if not all, of the preparation games and possibly even beyond the big kick-off at home to Sheffield Wednesday on August 9.

Given the serious nature of their injuries, it is difficult for the medical staff to give any guarantees about precisely when they will be back.

Welsh international Crofts scored six goals for Oscar Garcia's side last season before rupturing a cruciate knee ligament against Birmingham at the Amex in January.

Stephens, it has now emerged, ruptured an ankle ligament in Albion's penultimate game of the regular Championship campaign at home to Yeovil.

He had contributed a couple of key goals by that stage, including a last-gasp equaliser at Blackburn, and was missed as the Seagulls were comfortably despatched by Derby County in the play-offs.

Hyypia would naturally have preferred them to be available as he gets to know the players and what each can offer while also building the squad back up with new signings.

It will be intriguing to see how the Finn accomodates Crofts and Stephens once they are both fully fit.

They are similar types, mobile and energetic, with an eye for getting forward and finding the net.

Stephens was effectively signed to fill the hole created by Crofts' absence when Albion bought him from Charlton at the end of the January transfer window.

As things stand, Hyypia also has newcomer Nzuzi Toko, Rohan Ince, Jake Forster-Caskey and the enigmatic Kemy Agustien in the central midfield mix.

Solly March can also be added to that list if Forster-Caskey's England under 21 colleague is seen as a central playmaker rather than winger, as was the case latterly under Oscar.