'Crazy...but I love it' - Neal Maupay and the sheer madness of being a Premier League striker
There’s an age old belief in football that if you give your absolute maximum each match then the fans will love you no matter what.
Most of the time that rings true but not it seemed for Albion striker Neal Maupay, who was often on the receiving end of some stinging criticism last season.
The Frenchman, who netted eight times last campaign, became the focal point of blame as Albion’s attractive football so often failed to deliver the results.
The worse Brighton’s much-talked about xG became, the more grief Maupay received.
His work-rate, competitiveness and his unshakable ability to wind-up defenders remained remarkably high. But chances were missed and it’s little surprise his confidence suffered in the second part of the campaign as once more Graham Potter’s team hovered too close to the bottom three.
Pundits and social media were scathing and the unmistakable message was Maupay is not good enough, Brighton need a new striker.
On top of that Maupay and his family had received death threats and a Singapore teenager, Derek Ng, became the first person outside the UK to be convicted of sending abusive messages to a Premier League player.
Ng was handed a nine-month probation order for writing: “You think you will get away for injuring Leno? No way in hell bruv... But don’t worry you will be safe you won’t be hurt. It’s more fun watching you feel pain when your loved ones go through suffering.”
He then sent: “I will f*** you up” and “Your family will be attacked later in the day just watch”.
Maupay reported them to EPL’s online abuse reporting system. Instagram later blocked Ng’s anonymous account.
However, Ng created a new account and wrote: “You think by reporting my account you’re safe? I will kill you and your family.”
Maupay believed Ng’s threats to be credible and he and his family were said to be leaving their home as little as possible. It was a harrowing experience and highlighted the sheer madness of being a high-profile striker in the social media age.
Thankfully, he looks refreshed and has four goals from his first seven matches. He now has 22 Premier League goals from 77 appearances and his sublime strike to earn a point against old rivals Crystal Palace last month underlined his new found confidence. There are plenty of Premier League strikers who arrived for far more and delivered much less.
In short, Maupay seems to have rediscovered his mojo and Brighton certainly need him as Danny Welbeck’s troublesome hamstring went ping once again at Crystal Palace, Aaron Connolly has struggled for form and fitness and Albion’s remaining recognised striker, Jurgen Locadia, is back after under-whelming loan spells at Hoffenhiem and FC Cincinnati.
“It is a tricky one because if we lose games and we don’t score then all of a sudden it is the strikers fault.” said the 25 year-old, who was one of Potter’s first signings for Albion’s when he joined from Brentford for £16 million in August 2019.
“I will be the first man people look at and they say, ‘oh, Brighton don’t win because Neal Maupay doesn’t score.’
“So that is a bit harsh most probably. But that is part of the job. It is crazy, because when you score you are a superstar but when you don’t you are all of a sudden a bad player. But I love that. I am just trying to stay focused on my work and what I need to do on the pitch.
“Of course it is always good to feel the support of everyone. But I am experienced now and things can change very quick. In two games everything can change and I can be that guy that does not score and I am then the problem.
"I can’t be too excited. I’m just enjoying the moment. I know if I play with confidence and play my game I will score goals.”