CHRIS HUGHTON has hailed the “nice story” which has seen Dale Stephens emerge as a Premier League star.

The Albion midfielder, who has been touted for eventual England recognition by former colleague Bobby Zamora, has now played in all of the top five divisions, including the National League with Droylesden.

Stephens, 27, has overcome a ten-month absence with an ankle injury, a red card in the promotion decider at Middlesbrough and frustration at seeing a move to top-flight Burnley blocked when Albion were in the Championship.

Hughton said: “I’m delighted about some of these players being able to play at Premier League level.

“They have been very good for me in the last two seasons.

“I have seen players improve their game and play at a really good level.

“Dale is a nice story and he is one of them.

“He had the injury when I arrived and he is one who has played at a really good level right through my time here.”

Zamora offered Stephens his encouragement after Thursday’s squad announcement.

He tweeted: “Honestly mate keep going and you and Lewis Dunk will be in that England squad.

“Both top, top players. So pleased for you both, keep going.”

Midfield option Beram Kayal is not expected to feature for the under-21s tonight as they go to Stevenage in the Checkatrade Trophy.

But Izzy Brown will get a game along with several senior colleagues.

Ezequiel Schelotto, Uwe Huenemeier, Connor Goldson, Jamie Murphy and Jiri Skalak would all appear to be candidates for game time.

Hughton used the same fixture last season to get Sebastien Pocognoli up to speed after signing on loan from West Brom.

Albion probably need a win in 90 minutes tonight to progress to the knockout stages.