As a ghost of England past, Danny Welbeck would have enjoyed returning to the spotlight at the expense of international football’s new pin-up boy, Jack Grealish.
Welbeck scored his first Brighton goal — after a brilliant dash from the halfway line — to help his team record their first ever victory at Villa Park. Meanwhile Grealish, the man compared to Paul Gascoigne, could not make a difference.
It was the ideal way for Welbeck to mark his 30th birthday this week and a reminder he was once the golden boy breaking into the Manchester United and England teams a decade ago.
Danny Welbeck scored his first goal for Brighton in their 2-1 victory against Aston Villa
A decent career has incorporated 42 England caps and a £16million move to Arsenal, but injuries prevented it from becoming great and Brighton was his best option in October after being released by Watford.
Fortunately the natural talent remains and after 12 minutes he took Adam Lallana’s clever pass, ran 50 yards and clipped a shot over Emiliano Martinez to open the scoring.
Just as impressive considering Welbeck spent three months without a club, he lasted the full 90 minutes. Manager Graham Potter has introduced him gradually this season and it is now paying dividends.
‘Danny did individual work to keep fit (after leaving Watford) but matches are a different thing,’ said Potter. ‘You can’t do too much too soon because it will cause fatigue or injuries. We had to balance it and I’m delighted for him. It’s only the second time he and (Neal) Maupay have played together. They combined well and ran for each other.’
Naturally, Welbeck was pleased to get off the mark for his new club. ‘Adam can always play it through with his vision,’ he explained. ‘I took a good first touch and once I was bearing down on goal and got close, I knew what I was going to do.
‘The most important thing was three points, we can build on that. It’s been pretty easy for me to settle in. I’ve not had my pre-season but I am feeling fitter and stronger each week — there is plenty more to come.’
Brighton manager Graham Potter has been impressed by the impact Welbeck has had so far
Despite Villa levelling through Ezri Konsa at the start of the second half, Brighton took the points through Solly March’s fine strike on 56 minutes.
In a frenetic stoppage-time, the excellent Tariq Lamptey was sent off for Brighton after a foul on Grealish earned a second yellow card.
Villa were then awarded a last-gasp penalty, only for referee Michael Oliver to change his mind after going to the monitor to check March’s challenge on Trezeguet.
Villa’s Ross Barkley limped off early and will have a scan to assess a hamstring injury, and there was a mild hangover for Grealish after his thrilling England displays.
Dean Smith is not concerned, however, that his skipper’s form will suffer because he has become so high-profile.
‘He has been a targeted man ever since I came to Villa,’ said the manager after a third straight home loss. ‘Jack got kicked from pillar to post at times but we still created good chances.’
Welbeck has played 42 times and scored 16 goals for England, but he hasn’t played since 2018
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Martinez 7; Cash 6.5, Konsa 7, Mings 5.5, Targett 5.5; Luiz 6 (Hourihane 75min, 6), McGinn 5; Trezeguet 6.5, Barkley (Traore 5, 6.5; El Ghazi 74, 6), Grealish 6.5; Watkins 6.
Subs not used: Steer, Taylor, Nakamba, Elmohamady. Scorer: Konsa 47. Booked: Targett, Grealish.
Manager: Dean Smith 6.5.
Brighton (4-4-2): Ryan 6.5; Lamptey 7, White 7, Dunk 7, Webster 6.5; Lallana 7 (Veltman 46, 6), Bissouma 6, Gross 6.5 (Molumby 90), March 7; Maupay 6.5 (Burn 80), Welbeck 8.
Subs not used: Steele, Alzate, Connolly, Jahanbakhsh. Scorers: Welbeck 12, March 56. Booked: Bissouma, Lamptey. Sent off: Lamptey.
Manager: Graham Potter 7.
Referee: Michael Oliver 6.