Graham Potter has backed Brighton captain Lewis Dunk to emulate West Ham counterpart Mark Noble in playing Premier League football into his mid-thirties.
Long-serving Hammers midfielder Noble, 35, is poised to retire following Sunday’s season final against the Seagulls at the Amex Stadium.
Hosts Albion have a one-club man of their own in the shape of once-capped England defender Dunk.
Head coach Potter believes the influential 30-year-old – who missed nine games during December and January due to a knee injury – is back on top form and capable of enjoying similar longevity to rival skipper Noble.
“He can because he looks after himself so well,” Potter said of Dunk, who has made 373 Brighton appearances.
“As he’s got older, I think he’s got more and more aware of what he needs to do, how he needs to look after his body.
“He’s more and more intelligent, as you’d imagine. The more experience he gains, the more knowledge of himself and the team and the game (he has), so these little things help as you get older.
“He’s had a challenging year, the first major injury he’s had in his career, so he had to psychologically deal with that.
“It wasn’t easy for him because his standards are so high. But I think you’ve seen recently, he’s back to his top form and we didn’t have any doubts of course but it’s a process still you have to go through.
“He’s been great support for me since I’ve been here and we’re delighted to have him as a one-club guy.”
Potter enjoyed a double anniversary on Friday – celebrating his 47th birthday and three years since his appointment by Albion.
He has already guided the club to a record Premier League points tally this term, which currently stands at 48, and is bidding to secure their maiden top-half finish, with anywhere between eighth and 14th still a possibility.
Seventh-placed West Ham, meanwhile, travel to the south coast bidding to leapfrog Manchester United and snatch Europa League qualification.
Potter is anticipating an entertaining finale to a memorable campaign.
“Our guys are ambitious, they’re determined, they want to succeed, they want to do better and it’s one game left,” he said.
“It’s a home game against a top team – a team we have a lot of respect for. I think it’s going to be a good game because West Ham have to win.
“A draw isn’t going to change anything for them, or even a defeat, in terms of their league position.
“A win is the only way they can get above Manchester United, so that in itself makes it an interesting game.
“You look at the league table and there are a lot of games with stuff riding on them, which is great for the Premier League – it just goes to show that the margins are quite small.
“If we can manage to do it (win) then that would be a points tally we’re proud of and a position in the league table to be proud of.”
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