Celtic were today linked with a move for Brighton star Dale Stephens. Here’s everything Celtic fans need to know about the 27-year-old midfielder
Burnley chased him in the summer
Celtic will already know they’re in quite a battle to land their man, with English Premier League side Burnley having had six offers rejected in the summer. Stephens had his heart set on a move to the top tier as the EPL new boys sought to replace Joey Barton at the heart of the midfield. But Brighton stood firm, despite the fact Stephens submitted a transfer request on deadline day to try and push the move through. When it didn’t materialise, the player took to Twitter to explain his frustration to the fans, talking up his “dream” of playing in the English top flight. If that’s his ultimate goal, Celtic may find it hard to beat out Burnley for his signature, even if they can offer the prospect of Champions League football.
There’s also the small matter of the fee. Despite Stephens’ contract being due to expire at the end of the current campaign, a fee of £6million was still being touted earlier this month.
He’s slowly built his career up from the bottom
Stephens started as a youngster with Bury. He was twice loaned out from the League Two side, going as low as the sixth tier of English football with Hyde United. Oldham took a chance on him in 2008 and were rewarded when he broke into the first-team a year later. Charlton snatched the player up in 2011 for a fee of around £300,000 and two-and-a-half years later he was on the move once again, this time to Brighton. Until the current campaign, where his form has dipped slightly due to the protracted nature of his inevitable exit, he’s continued to improve year or year.
He would likely be used alongside Scott Brown/Stuart Armstrong
Celtic fans may be excited to know there’s a possibility the club are interested in signing both Stephens and MLS player Darlington Nagbe, who they’ve also been linked with today. While Nagbe is a player who relies on speed and dribbling ability to make things happen higher up the park, Stephens is someone who tends to operate further back, and would likely battle Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong for a start at the base of Celtic’s midfield in the 4-2-3-1 system. Like a classic English midfielder, he’s a battler who’s not afraid to get stuck in, but he also possesses a terrific range of passing.
He’s starred alongside former Celtic star Beram Kayal
The two were a massive part of Brighton’s promotion push last season and played similarly vital roles this term until Kayal suffered an injury in October. They two midfielders do the dirty work and are dependable enough in possession to allow Brighton to play an attack-minded 4-4-2 line-up. The Seagulls currently sit second in the Championship table.
Of the partnership, Stephens said: “We have shared defensive and attacking responsibilities and it has suited our games. It would be nice to score a few more goals, but if we can get the job done and do what we set out to do this year then we will be happy.”
He became known for a tackle on Gastón Ramírez
In the final game of the season, Stephens was shown a straight red card for a challenge on the Middlesbrough attacker that left a gaping wound on the Uruguayan’s leg. It ruled Stephens out of the play-offs, where Brighton would fall in the semi-final to Sheffield Wednesday. However, while it was called a “horror challenge” by some, Stephens was a little unfortunate as he had eyes for the bouncing ball when contact was made. The incident occurred five minutes after the midfielder had given his side the lead.