Brighton & Hove Albion’s Leon Balogun is ready to compete for a centre-back spot ahead of the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Earlier in the summer, the Nigeria international arrived the English Premier League outfit on a free from Mainz 05.
And since returning for pre-season from World Cup duties, he has been put through his pace with the rest of Chris Hughton’s squad, rotating the central defensive spots with reliable pair Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy.
Aware of the duo’s qualities, the 30-year-old believes the competition for places will help them improve, and is willing to make himself ‘ready at all times’.
“The manager will make a decision and we’ll all accept that, but you have to be ready at all times.
“I’ve seen the qualities of Lewis and Shane in the past week or so since I’ve been here – I played with Lewis for the first time [against Charlton Athletic] and he’s very composed on the ball.
“Both are very strong physically and you can tell that they’ve played here for a long time already, but I have qualities myself and I’ll put in my best and see what happens from there.”
Having had a taste of a World Cup tournament, being a regular fixture for an unlucky Super Eagles side that crashed out at the group stages of Russia 2018, Balogun faced several attackers in the quadrennial tournament but opines that their counterparts in the English top-flight are a bit more quality.
“The strikers in the Premier League will have a bit more quality than the World Cup in my opinion, and I think the qualities of the offensive players in the division mean it will be an exciting challenge for me.
“I’ve come into a side where the two central defenders did very well last year – I just have to do my best, work hard and then you hope it’s enough.
“I can’t come in and say I’ve played in the World Cup and I should start – it has to be about me earning a place in the team."
On August 11, Brighton kick-start the 2018-19 EPL season with a tie against Watford at Vicarage Road, and the West Berlin-born defender weighs in on how well he has settled in - ahead of his first ever task away from Germany, at club level.
“I still have to settle in and accustom myself to a new system compared to my former club, but at this level, you need to have a certain level of understanding.
“I joined the group three weeks later but it’s just part of my job – it’s a lot more physical here and sometimes it can be quicker too.
“There is more individual quality throughout teams, but I knew that before I came here – the offensive players are strong and skilful but I’m excited to face them when I can.”