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Making the step up from the Championship to the Premier League is like skipping two years ahead in school. It's more daunting, filled with people who are equal or superior and can brutally expose a lack of preparation.

That goes for almost all teams, but it also goes for their star players. In recent years, the Premier League has swallowed up Championship Player of the Year winners like , Matêj Vydra and Patrick Bamford.

While history may not be on his side, Brighton & Hove Albion playmaker Anthony Knockaert is determined not to follow suit.

For reasons both on and off the pitch, it's been a difficult start to life in the Premier League for Knockaert.

The Frenchman enjoyed the finest season of his career during the 2016/17 campaign, his quality from wide areas leading to 15 goals and nine assists to help guide the Seagulls to automatic promotion to the top-flight.

Knockaert's dazzling brand of trickery, dribbling and deadly left-foot deliveries saw him end the season as the Championship's highest-rated player, as per Who Scored. The 25-year-old completed well over 100 dribbles, so it's not difficult to see why he has become such a fan favourite at the Amex Stadium.

However, last season was also one of the darkest years of Knockaert's life. His father, Patrick, passed away in November aged 63 shortly following a cancer diagnosis, seven years after Anthony's brother died of a heart attack in his sleep.

Having been extremely close to his father, Knockaert struggled with the loss, but he found solace on the pitch. His football thrived while he grappled with an intense feeling of loss and grief.

But this season, Knockaert has found life on and off the pitch difficult. As the one year anniversary of his father's death approaches, he has sought counselling to help him contend with the heartache. He also chose to express his emotions publicly in a courageous and poignant interview with The Daily Mail.

The hope among the entire footballing community is for Knockaert to take that step towards moving on with his life. It will be difficult. His dad was his mentor, friend and biggest supporter but, in Brighton, he has found a club that is willing to support him through this personal journey.

Knockaert's biggest goal is to succeed in the Premier League. His father's dream was to see him play in the top-flight, so he is determined to rediscover his devastating form of last season and get the Amex bouncing again.

Of course, Knockaert is an intelligent man and knows that opportunities to produce in the final third won't come as frequently. Brighton will see less of the ball compared to the Championship (they have averaged 45 per cent possession so far) and, while that can be frustrating for a playmaker, Knockaert is happy to put in a shift and help Brighton retain their place in this division for next year.

“Some of the games it will be hard to produce what we did last year. Last year we had all the possession but if I need to defend all season this time then I will do that. If we stay up and I have scored zero goals then I will be happy,” he told The Daily Mail.

Unfinished Premier League Business

Of course, Knockaert will feel that the Premier Leagues owes him time. After helping Leicester City to promotion in 2014, Knockaert was afforded only nine Premier League appearances by Nigel Pearson, three of which were starts. He also didn't play at all from mid-January to the end of the season.

Fed up with a lack of playing time, he moved to Standard Liège. However, Brighton had been interested in him for some time and, six months after he had moved to Belgium, he was packing his bags and headed for the south of England.

Now, having lifted the Seagulls to promotion like he did with the Foxes, Knockaert is determined not to let another big year in his career pass him by. An ankle injury curtailed his preparations in pre-season, forcing him to start the first two games of the season against Manchester City and former side Leicester from the bench.

Then, in his first start, Knockaert was lucky to continue beyond the 24th minute when Watford defender Miguel Britos recklessly lunged into a tackle, catching the Brighton winger right below the knee with his studs.

Watford fans didn't think much of Knockaert writhing around the ground in agony. When playing for Leicester against the Hornets in the Championship play-off semi-final in 2013, Knockaert dived to win a penalty.

However, there was no simulation this time and, despite being scythed down by the Uruguayan, Knockaert went on to win Man of the Match.

During the match, Knockaert won six duels, won three aerial battles and made three key passes. He was also desperately unfortunate not to score the winner in the 0-0 draw, his curled effort from 15 yards striking the inside of the post.

Knockaert didn't have his greatest game in the win over Newcastle United and was dropped for the Arsenal game, but Hughton played down any idea that the Frenchman is struggling as he finds his way back to 100 per cent.

“There’s the contribution to the team, which is always there with Anthony, and executing some of the things that would have been a bit more comfortable last season,” Hughton said.

“That is normal in a side when you know it is going to be a tough season. Plus he missed four weeks in pre-season. I think he’s fine.”

Knockaert may have struggled somewhat professionally and personally in recent weeks, but that's understandable given what he has gone through. The positive thing is that, where there is darkness, there is also light. Knockaert knows that, in Brighton, he has a dependable support network around him, and he will need them.

On the pitch, he just needs time. He possesses as much natural technical ability as anyone in the Brighton side and, with a good run of games under his belt, he could be a key asset to Hughton as he looks to avoid the drop. He certainly deserves it.

Premier League