Apart from the team itself they form the most important team at Albion.

The nine men pictured are at the top of the revamped recruitment structure, responsible for helping manager Chris Hughton sign players who will get the Seagulls back to the right end of the Championship.

They have made an encouraging start. Beram Kayal, the only permanent signing by Albion in the January transfer window, has already made a big impact in the climb away from trouble by adding drive, determination and mobility in midfield.

The former Israeli international looks a bargain £325,000 buy from Celtic.

There is still a lot of work to be done by head of recuitment Paul Winstanley and his colleagues to aid Hughton in restoring Albion as top six contenders, rather than the relegation candidates they have turned into for most of this season.

Albion performed poorly in the January 2014 transfer window. Head coach Oscar Garcia still managed to scrape them into the play-offs before walking out.

They fared even worse in last summer's window and the cumulative effect has played a significant role in the Seagulls' struggles this season.

Hughton's predecessor Sami Hyypia resigned in December. Head of football operations David Burke eventually paid the price for Albion's transfer business and was sacked on Christmas Eve.

Owner and chairman Tony Bloom, a mathematician by education, is big on statictics. The club had been moving under Burke towards a more analyst-driven recruitment policy.

Experienced scouts out in the field felt increasingly disengaged in the process as the science threatened to outweight the naked eye.

Hyypia's lack of knowledge of English players in the Football League exacerbated a void in joined-up thinking.

The science in the form of an avalanche of data about players and the naked eye in the shape of the scout with a talent for talent-spotting both have a part to play. Marrying them with the manager's requirements is key.

Winstanley spoke common sense on the subject in the recent matchday programme for the visit of Hughton's old club Birmingham.

Winstanley said: "I am working very closely with Chris and our coaching staff to indentify new targets and we can use the comprehensive data set which I have at my disposal to quickly seek out the players that fit in with our philosophy.

"I encourage all of our scouts to watch games with an open mind so we still have the element of an old-school process as well as a scientific data set. It's all about combining the objective with the subjective.

"While our data and analysis is very important in the identification process, having experts on the road is vital as it helps us subjectively.

"What data doesn't tell you is what the player is like off the ball, positional sense, leadership qualities, temperament when things are maybe going wrong - that's where our scouts' expertise comes in."

Hughton's appointment as chief scout of the vastly experienced Ewan Chester, who worked with him at Birmingham and Norwich, has helped redress the imbalance between new technology and old-school methodoloy.

It helps as well to have a manager with an encyclopedic knowledge of the English game. Winstanley said: "The manager has been actively involved in the process throughout and knows a lot of the players which is key."

In respect of the managerial appointment itself, Bloom also performed something of a U-turn.

Hyypia, another left-field choice after Oscar and Gus Poyet, retained the support of the board, even at the point of his departure. Why? Well his cause was strengthened by stats showing that Albion were second only to Borussia Dortmund in a European table of performance levels not translating into results.

The only stats that really counted were a run of one win out of 18 in the league and 22nd in the table, four points adrift of safety, when Hyypia left.

Bloom has subsequently effectively reversed the European model Albion were moving towards - an up and coming manager or head coach with a less dominant influence over player recruitment and a structure of continuity for when, rather than if, he leaves.

It might have worked with Oscar. The Spaniard was comfortable with a similar set-up at Maccabi Tel Aviv, where long-time colleague Jordi Cruyff was sporting director.

It fell down at Albion because Oscar and Burke did not gel. There was a lack of communication and no connection.

Now the Seagulls have their oldest ever manager, even though Hughton looks younger and trimmer than 56.

He was allowed to bring in his own experienced assistant, Colin Calderwood, and Chester.

Meanwhile, Bloom's former sports betting business accomplice turned rival Matthew Benham at Championship opponents Brentford is marching on with a blueprint similar to but even more far-reaching than the recruitment model dramatically altered by Albion.

Brentford caused shockwaves in English football with their recent announcement that Mark Warburton, the manager who got them promoted from League One last season and now has them in contention for a place in the Premier League, will be leaving at the end of the season.

At the root of his departure is a disagreement with Benham over his data-based recruitment system, a 'Moneyball' approach derived from baseball in which the smart use of undervalued statistics allowed financially disadvantaged teams to compete with better-resourced rivals.

Giving the manager a say still in player recruitment but no right of veto is a step too far for Warburton. You cannot blame him when his job depends on results which could be affected by a player or players he may not want.

Benham's methods have been paying off at FC Midtjylland, a Danish Superliga club where he is majority shareholder.

It remains to be seen whether it can be transported successfully to the English game with all its nuances and idiosyncrasies.

It will be interesting to see also how Albion and Brentford compare this time next year. Right now the mathematical-minded Bloom's revision feels as if it will add up to a brighter future again for his club.

Scouting The Scouts

Paul Winstanley (head of recruitment): Worked for Paul Jewell at Wigan and moved with him to Derby as head of analysis. Continued with County under Nigel Clough and Steve McClaren, under whom his role had shifted to pre and post-match analysis. His passion is recruitment and he was head hunted by Albion.

Ewan Chester (chief scout): Had two spells at Glasgow Rangers, spanning in total over 20 years. Was also at Fulham, Birmingham and Norwich, where in-between his two stints he was linked with Chelsea.

Ian Pearce (Southern scout): Former centre-half with Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers, West Ham and Fulham and capped three times by England at under-21 level. Helped Blackburn to the Premier League title in 1995.

Darren Wrack (Northern scout): Respected input has enabled him to survive various changes since joining Albion in April 2012. Ex-midfielder made over 380 appearances in a decade with Walsall. Retired when he was 34 and still only 38.

Jamie Johnson (European scout): Son of renowned former Liverpool, Spurs, QPR and Newcastle scout Mel Johnson. Had spells at Derby with Winstanley and at Millwall, where when working as chief scout he inspired journalist Michael Calvin's book about the scouting industry, 'The Nowhere Men'.