Danny Welbeck scored six Premier League goals for Brighton last season
It’s typical of Danny Welbeck’s jovial nature that the only time he gets serious during a chat in a New Jersey hotel comes right at the end, when he has a personal matter to say.
Welbeck’s age comes up regularly during the BBC Sport interview, with the Brighton striker admitting that a career in football “goes so fast”.
He is now 32 years old; his Manchester United debut aged 17 was in 2008. Only Adam Lallana and newcomer James Milner in Brighton’s squad are older than the former England striker.
“I’m feeling fit and strong at the moment and I’m really looking forward to this season,” Welbeck said. “I’ve done some pre-season testing and I’m up there, even though a lot of the squad is younger.
“You put the graft in and it’s good to be worth it.”
No time to rest in Brighton
Welbeck made 37 appearances for Brighton last season in a campaign that saw them praised throughout the English game for his adventurous approach.
They finished sixth – their highest ever – qualifying for Europe for the first time and as a result will go straight into the Europa League group stage next season.
Many observers also felt the Seagulls were unlucky not to beat Manchester United in the FA Cup semi-final in April.
Coach Roberto de Zerbi, however, leaves no time for his players to enjoy their success.
“You can’t have a good season and think that’s enough,” Welbeck said. “It’s never enough. That’s a lot of what the manager says.
“He wants us to keep going. If we have a good performance, he wants the next one to be even better, the next one has to be better again.
“It’s the same with seasons. Obviously it’s for a longer period of time, but the manager has the will to improve every person at the club and instills the belief that we want to be better.
“There is no rest. We are going to push ourselves and see what we can do in every competition this year.”
Of Zerbi and the detail
De Zerbi deservedly won lots of applause last season not only to stabilize the situation at the Amex Stadium when Graham Potter left for Chelsea in September, but also to improve it, introducing a high-risk tactical strategy that opponents struggled to combat.
After an opening run of five games without a win, Brighton did not go two Premier League games without a win from October until the end of the season.
Welbeck played under two of the Premier League’s great managers, Sir Alex Ferguson and then five seasons with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, but is reluctant to draw direct comparisons between those legends and his current boss, saying there are “ways different from achieving success.”
“The game has changed since I started playing in the Premier League,” says Welbeck.
“Tactically, the detail of every game is huge, especially playing under this manager, you have to know every detail of the pitch, not just for your position but for all positions.”
Pass on advice
While Welbeck feels he has plenty to contribute to Brighton this season, he admits his career is flying by in the blink of an eye.
“Last season I found myself talking to Evan [Ferguson, 18] and I said “time flies, don’t waste it”.
“I remember having conversations like that with my first team elders growing up at United. Here I am having that conversation with ‘Little Big Ev’.
“At Manchester United there were a lot of players who guided me and gave me advice. It meant a lot then to hear that kind of thing, to hear people who had been through certain situations and different experiences, who had a lot of knowledge in the world game.
“I’m always happy to help out with the other players. It’s very easy for them to come talk to me. It’s nice to pass on some knowledge and experience.”