The question had to be asked.

How can you sit down with a German footballer without reference to his country's shock early exit from the World Cup?

Pascal Gross grimaced a little before responding in the measured fashion which served Albion so well in his debut season.

"Everybody in Germany doesn't know how we could go out at the group stage," Gross said. "It's never happened before.

"Since 2002 I think we were always at least in the semi-finals, so it's very hard for us, but every country has to go through it sometimes.

"I think we will recover and we have some good players to be better at the next World Cup."

Gross is too modest to consider himself as one of those good players, in spite of a sensational impact in the Premier League.

The intelligent No.10 turned out to be one of the buys of the season, not just for Albion but in all of the dealings by all 20 clubs.

He was the first signing following promotion, for a meagre fee of around £3.5 million after Ingolstadt were relegated from the Bundesliga.

The Argus: He delivered seven goals and eight assists, including the winner against Manchester United at the Amex in May (above) which secured safety with two matches to spare.

He also provided a Premier League high of 36 chances from set-pieces, such is his expertise from corners and free-kicks.

Gross, armed with a new deal until 2022, is reluctant to reflect too much on past achievement.

"I am very happy with my first year with Brighton, that we stayed up," he said. "I always said this was the most important thing, that we now have a second year in the Premier League.

"Personally, I am very happy that I could help the team with my goals and assists and my performances. I was happy last year but now it's over and I have to look forward, because in football you can't say last year. Nobody cares about it now. I have to train hard and try to do my best this year."

It is not all doom and gloom on the sporting front for Germany. Angelique Kerber (below) and Julia Gorges are in the semi-finals at Wimbledon today.

The Argus: Gross, a tennis fan, was at Wimbledon last week watching Serena Williams and Gael Monfils prior to Albion's training camp in Austria and a second season in the Premier League which he expects to be even tougher than the first.

"I think the second year is always harder for everybody," he said, speaking at the squad's headquarters in the Alpine resort of Schruns. "For the first part of the season teams going up are very self-confident because they've won a lot of games the year before.

"The second year I think you have to work harder and be well prepared, especially in the Premier League.

"Every team, every club is getting better, buying good players. So we have to be well prepared and know that it is very tough to do again what we did last year.

"If we do this we are also a good team and a strong team. We're not scared of anyone."

The first three goals Gross scored last season were against sides Albion will not be facing this time around, relegated West Brom (below) and Stoke.

The Argus: The next was against next month's opening hosts Watford, which is followed by four matches out of six against last season's top four including United in the first home game.

Gross said: "Of course I looked at the fixtures but I think every game is difficult in the Premier League. There is nothing where you say 'Okay, that's easy, I like to play against them first'.

"It doesn't matter in my opinion but it's also hard to play against us. We have to be self-confident, I think, and believe in ourselves.

"We know every team is good and every game is tough. We have to look at ourselves."

Some of the faces have changed. Gross has lost his compatriot and regular golfing partner at West Hove, Uwe Huenemeier, following the defender's return to Paderborn.

"He introduced me to golf," Gross said. "In Germany you need a licence, some lessons first with a coach.

"He said to me in England it's different, you can join with me and play with me. He helped me a lot."

The gains include two players taking the same route from the Bundesliga, Bernardo and Leon Balogun.

"I watch a lot of football, English but also German football, so I know them both," Gross said. "They are good players. Bernardo is a very good character, young and he wants to improve.

"He is happy to be here and happy to be in the Premier League. We will help them and we hope they can help us."

Gross has certainly been a big help so far.