Brighton boss Graham Potter has heaped praise on Republic of Ireland defender Shane Duffy.
Duffy has returned to form for club and country after a difficult year during which his father passed away and his performances, while on loan at Celtic last season, cratered.
Brighton head into Saturday's Premier League clash with Leeds in ninth place and level on points with Manchester United, despite a recent run of draws slowing their early-season momentum.
And Duffy has been vital to the south coast club’s progress four months after it appeared that his time in England’s top-flight had passed.
“I’ve been really impressed,” said Potter. “I’ll echo Stephen’s [Kenny] comments in terms of how impressive Shane has been in terms of a human being through a tough period in his life.
“I think sometimes you have to hit the bottom and go back up again. If you speak to Shane, he’d suggest that happened to him, and you’d take stock of your life, make some decisions and decide what you want to do.
He’s been brave enough, strong enough and has the support of his friends and family and team-mates to do that. He’s now getting the benefit of that.
Duffy’s standard of passing for club and country has been a standout since August, overwriting the impression of him being an old-school bruiser, and Potter said the improvement is down to working on the 29-year-old’s ability to understand what is happening in front of him more than improvements in technique.
“Shane’s ability to execute passes, he has always had that quality,” said Potter. “What we have to help him with is the decision-making and understanding from a team perspective about which pass and when. He’s taken steps with that.
“He is open-minded, he wants to learn, improve and support the team. Whatever role you ask Shane Duffy to play, he will play it to the best of his intentions. He came back from Celtic with open arms because he’s such a good character because of what he has done for this club. He’s a legend here, we love him.”
Potter also confirmed that Aaron Connolly will be available for selection today following a heel injury that has kept the 21-year-old forward out since the end of October.
“It’s about getting him up to speed, training at a good level,” he said. “He’s done that since the international break, so he is in contention.”