Championship play-offs: Echoes of Johan Cruyff as Brighton coach Oscar Garcia bids to get Seagulls soaring
The Brighton head coach, Oscar Garcia, a disciple of Johan Cruyff as a player at Barcelona, hopes to take the first step towards joining two more of his coaches at the Nou Camp, Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal, in next season's Premier League.
Cruyff, of course, never faced a Championship play-off semi-final against Derby County, with the first leg at the Brighton's Amex Stadium on Thursday night. But Garcia now has a season's experience of the English game to add to the lessons he took from Cruyff and the others.
"I tried to take the best thing of each one to be a good manager and I was lucky to be their player," he said. "I learnt a lot from Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, [Sir] Bobby [Robson], Van Gaal, from all of them."
Van Gaal, Garcia says, is a "strong character" who "always wanted to be a Premier League manager", but Cruyff is his main point of footballing reference.
"He was always positive, had a philosophy to keep the ball to play forward, to create chances by keeping possession. He is a genius – I am only a coach but maybe we have a similar philosophy."
Cruyff's belief that the opposition cannot score without the ball is the basis of Brighton's defensive record, the second-best in the division. Even so, reaching the play-offs, thanks to Saturday's injury-time winner at Nottingham Forest, must have seemed an unlikely prospect for Garcia when he lost his first three games after arriving from Maccabi Tel Aviv last summer, taking over from Gus Poyet in the messy aftermath of Brighton's play-off defeat to Crystal Palace.
He lost key players in the January transfer window and to long-term injury and had doubters among the fans, but still the Seagulls finished only three points below last season's total. "When you are 16th in the table it is normal that some people don't trust what you are doing," he said. "We showed great character and never gave up. For me it wasn't a surprise that we will be fighting until the end.
"We know we are underdogs as Derby finished third and are the top-scoring team in the league. They beat us home and away but in football anything can happen and we will fight for our place."
Latest in Sport
Didier Drogba went absolutely mental in the Chelsea dressing room after Blues were given the Premier League trophy
Jack Wilshere's final-day strike wins Match of the Day's Goal of the Season award after Arsenal fans hijack vote
Liverpool's 2005 Champions League-winning side: From Jerzy Dudek to Vladimir Smicer - where are they now?
Jurgen Klopp favourite to replace Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool if he's sacked
Premier League 2015/16 kits: Confirmed and rumoured strips from Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and others
- 1 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 2 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 3 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 5 David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland