For a 20-year-old from the Swiss Alps, Lorent Tolaj looks uncannily like an old-fashioned English centre-forward.

Which is why he believes his bold decision to leave home at the age of 16 was such a wise move.

Tolaj caped his fourth year in England with two goals as Albion’s under-23s beat Worthing 4-2 in the Sussex Senior Cup final.

It has been an up-and-down season, with six league goals for the 23s but then a frustrating loan stint with Cambridge United.

But the burly, barrel-chested front man with an explosive finish has more reason than ever to reflect that he made the right call when he left the FC Sion academy.

This feels like his footballing home from home.

When he had a shaven head earlier this season, from a distance it looked like he might have been plucked from the pages of an old Charles Buchan Football Annual and transported to present day Premier League 2.

Told he looks like an English No.9, he replied: “Exactly! I love this football.

“English football is my football.”

Albion did not have to do much legwork to find the frontman who is causing some excitement among those who follow the academy.

He told The Argus: “I wanted to come to England and I found an agent and he got me a trial here.

“I did one week here, played one friendly game for Mark Beard (former under-18s boss) and I scored a header.

“I think I played really well and they gave me a contract.

“I lived here with my mum and my sister for one year.

“Then they went back to Switzerland.

“It was hard in the beginning but now I am really good.

“It was a big decision to come.

“I talked with my family a lot about it, my dad too.

“We decided to come here because it is the best football on the planet.

“FC Sion was a high standard but when I came here it was different football.

“I learnt so much here and I am very thankful to Brighton for what they did in these four years.”

Tolaj scored away to eventual League Two champions Forest Green and Northampton, who went ridiculously close to automatic promotion, in the Papa John’s Trophy early this season.

But he only managed five appearances as sub when he went to Cambridge on loan, one of them coming in the FA Cup.

Still, it was a worthwhile experience.

He said: “I didn’t really play so much but it was really nice to play men’s football. I really improved my football.

“How to use my body and also my finishing.

“Even if I didn’t really play, I take some good stuff from there and come back stronger here.


“Every day in training was really tough.

“Every defender was really big and it was hard to keep the ball but I improved my football a lot.

“When I came back, I just wanted to play and score goals. I was really hungry to score goals.”


Albion under-23s boss Andrew Crofts said: “I should imagine he benefited from his loan greatly in terms of working with senior players day in, day out.

“How hard the first team environment can be.

“He probably felt he didn’t get enough opportunities, felt a little bit hard done by.

“But that’s down to the manager’s choice.

“Sometimes things go for you, sometimes things don’t.

“Cambridge are a good side and they have had a good season.

“But Lorent is a really driven individual.

“He has got an exciting future because he scores goals, he has got good movement.

“He wants to learn, wants to improve, wants to get better.

“If he keeps that mindset, he will do well.”

Tolaj is unsure whether he hopes for another loan deal although that would appear an option.

The ultimate goal is Premier League action with the Seagulls.

He said: “I am focussed on the last week at Brighton and then enjoy my holidays because I think I need it.

“We will see what happens next.”