van Hecke impresses Brighton boss - but future still unclear

·2-min read
van Hecke impresses Brighton boss - but future still unclear
van Hecke impresses Brighton boss - but future still unclear

Jan Paul van Hecke has caught the eye of Brighton & Hove Albion boss Graham Potter after returning from his successful loan spell with Rovers.

The Dutch defender made his first appearance in a Premier League matchday squad as he was an unused substitute in the opening day win against Manchester United.

He returned to Brighton in the summer after winning Rovers’ player of the year prize and starring in the heart of the defence.

Potter always outlined that he would at least offer van Hecke a chance to impress in pre-season and he has been good to his word, with the Netherlands Under-21 international featuring heavily in pre-season.

The departure of Shane Duffy offered an opportunity for van Hecke in the matchday squad, and Potter praised his impact throughout the close season.

He said: “We have been impressed with JP since he's come back. He's had a really good loan, he's fitted into our group really well.

"He's ambitious, he wants to play so that's good but at the same time he is intelligent enough to know maybe a little bit of patience is required, so he's happy to support the team and the players. But he is still working really hard and really well.

“Always, I think, you have to carry on assessing because what is right for him is also good for us.

“We've been really impressed with him."

While Potter said that there could be an opportunity to break into his first-team plans, that is less clear.

Lewis Dunk, Joel Veltman and Adam Webster are the Seagulls’ first-choice central defensive options, with Levi Colwill having arrived on loan from Chelsea last week and made his debut off the bench at Old Trafford.

There is too an expectation that Brighton could yet strengthen their defensive ranks before the transfer window closes on September 1.

Then the club would need to then register their 25-man squad for the first half of the 2022/23 season, of which van Hecke would need to be included to feature, given he is now 22.

With the defender now into the final year of his contract at the club, having signed from NEC Breda in 2020, Brighton have decisions to make over van Hecke’s future, as well as Matt Clarke who finds himself in a similar position.

van Hecke has made it clear that after regular football on loan with Rovers last season and Heerenveen in 2020/21, that he wants to continue his development with regular game-time.

But his long-term future would need to be sorted before any loan deal is sanctioned, though that leaves the prospect of a permanent move open, particularly should Brighton add further to their ranks, with van Hecke currently fifth choice in his position.