Graham Potter backs ‘exciting’ Aaron Connolly to climb PL learning curve

Brighton boss Graham Potter has backed striker Aaron Connolly to rediscover the spark which saw him burst into the Premier League with a brace against Tottenham.

Republic of Ireland international Connolly marked his maiden top-flight start with an impressive double during last season’s thumping 3-0 win over the north London club.

The 21-year-old has struggled for goals since, scoring a total of five times in 35 league outings, as he prepares for Sunday’s meeting with Spurs.

His progress has not been helped a series of injury problems and Potter admits it can take time for young players to develop consistency.

“When he scored those goals he was 19 years old and sometimes you hit the ground and everything goes really well for you,” said Potter.

“But the key – especially to sustain a career at this level – you have got to do it week in, week out and that is the challenge to help the players do that.

“He has got some really good attributes, he is exciting and we believe in him but at the same time he is young and learning to be a Premier League player, a Premier League goalscorer.

“He has been a little bit unlucky with injuries and one or two things but that is part of life as a footballer.”

Connolly’s strike in the 3-3 draw with Wolves on January 2 was his second of the current campaign and first at the Amex Stadium since the Tottenham game.

He returned to Brighton’s squad from a hamstring injury as an unused substitute in the midweek stalemate with fellow strugglers Fulham.

His involvement against Jose Mourinho’s men this weekend may be restricted to a cameo role as Potter admits he is reluctant to risk a further injury setback.

“He has missed the last two or three weeks so we just need to be careful with him in terms of making sure he plays the right amount of minutes because you don’t want a recurrence,” said Potter.

“I think he has to concentrate on what he is really good at, which is being direct, pressing the opponent, understanding how he won’t be perfect, that he will make mistakes.

“It is how he reacts to those mistakes on the pitch. I thought he did well against Wolves the last time he played. He is developing and we are happy with him.”